Posts Tagged ‘map’


Photo: GPSArt.
A new fad: using the mapping function on your phone to create art.

At the New York Times, Claire Fahy has a report on a hobby generating the kind of puzzled glances that Pokémon enthusiasts wandering through traffic used to elicit.

“In 1665,” she begins, “Johannes Vermeer dabbed the last drop of paint onto a canvas in his Dutch studio, completing his masterpiece ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring.’

“On an April day 357 years later, Janine Strong slowed her bike to stop, paused her fitness app, and watched as the snaking line of her cycling route drew the shape of Vermeer’s masterpiece over the streets of Brooklyn.

“Ms. Strong creates what has come to be known as ‘GPS art’ — a practice that uses the Global Positioning System mapping capabilities of modern phone apps like Strava to create digital drawings using an athlete’s route across the landscape.

“Instead of biking on a straight path or in circles around a park, Ms. Strong plans her rides in the shapes of birthday cakes, stars, birds, lions — and the occasional Vermeer.

“The hobby has grown with the widespread availability of satellite tracking for use by ordinary people, in fitness apps like Nike Run Club or MapMyRide. It is particularly popular on Strava and often referred to as ‘Strava art.’

“Strava art has existed since that app’s release in 2009, but it experienced a surge in use during the pandemic. According to Michael Joseph, a senior communications manager at the company, more than three billion activities have been uploaded to Strava since the beginning of 2020.

“To complete her digital vision of ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring,’ Ms. Strong biked almost 50 miles around southern Brooklyn, carefully checking Strava to make sure each turn, circle, and straightaway was achieving the iconic earring and head covering of Vermeer’s original.

‘I always have a big smile on my face when it works out and I upload it and it’s done,’ she said. ‘It’s a very satisfying feeling.’ …

“In 2003, the New York Times Magazine ‘Year in Ideas‘ issue told of how Jeremy Wood and Hugh Pryor used Garmin GPS devices that looked like walkie-talkies to trace routes resembling butterflies and fish on walks through the English countryside.

” ‘It’s not just walking; you’ve got to be looking at this device,’ Mr. Pryor said in a recent interview. ‘People always wonder what you’re doing.’

“Mr. Wood said he got the idea for GPS art while he was using a GPS tracker on a flight and the plane flew in a holding pattern above Heathrow Airport. He was captivated by the pattern appearing on his Garmin.

“ ‘It formed this most beautiful oval shape, and it was better than I could draw by hand,’ Mr. Wood said. ‘That’s when I made a connection: You could use one’s movements to make marks in space.’

“Mr. Pryor, a classmate of Mr. Wood’s, had to develop software to get the GPS points off the Garmin and onto a computer, turning the data into drawings. In the years since, technology has advanced enough to create visual maps in real time using a phone or smart watch. …

“The practice has spread from the fields of Oxfordshire in England to the sand dunes of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil. Gustavo Lyra has run around Rio Grande in the image of John Lennon’s face and spent almost nine hours running a route for his daughter’s fifth birthday. It was an image of Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. …

“Gene Lu, who lives in New Jersey, started creating GPS art when he became a fan of the Game of Thrones TV series in 2013. He ran the shape of the family crests from the program. …

“Lenny Maughan, who refers to himself as a ‘human Etch A Sketch,’ also started out making map art tied to pop culture. Leonard Nimoy — Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek — had just died in 2015, and Mr. Maughan decided to pay him tribute. … ‘I thought, OK, I’m going to do the Vulcan salute.’

“The art form even has its own Guinness World Records categories. The Guardian profiled a couple who completed a 4,500-mile bike ride across Europe (while blogging the journey) that resulted in a 600-mile-wide GPS drawing of a bicycle — the largest such drawing on record, according to the Guardian. …

“For Mr. Lu, the unexpected is part of the beauty.

“ ‘The crazy thing is that you sort of don’t know where the map takes you; you just go with it,’ Mr. Lu said. ‘I always end up with what I’m looking for.’ “

More at the Times, here.

Photo: Daniel Rayneau-Kirkhope/Arianna Casiraghi.
The virtual bicycle drawn by Daniel Rayneau-Kirkhope and Arianna Casiraghi is 600 miles across and covers seven countries. See the article at the Guardian.

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Photo: KUOW
Civic poet Claudia Castro Luna created Seattle’s Poetic Grid and, leading workshops in libraries, helped residents express how they feel about the places they know.

My friend Ronnie Hess, a Wisconsin poet, linked to this story on Facebook, adding, “An excellent story but one that reminds me of Madison’s Echolocations, an anthology edited by past poets laureate of Madison Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman.”

On PBS News Hour, Jeffrey Brown interviewed Claudia Castro Luna and others about Seattle’s Poetic Grid.

“Brown: The idea of the Poetic Grid is to capture a sense of place in a city going through rapid change, and to use the words of the people who live here. … Claudia Castro Luna dreamed up the online digital map in 2015, when she became Seattle’s first civic poet. …

“Luna: We all have stories to tell about the place we live in. And we all have memories attached to the place we live in. And so, [our workshop effort] was like opening up a faucet.

“And people have stories to tell. And that’s one of the marvelous things. At the end, I told them, you will write. You will see you will have a poem. And, indeed, they had one. …

“Brown: The poems for the grid span the city. Some are about home, memories of growing up in the affluent Blue Ridge neighborhood. Others are about homelessness, the cold concrete of a Seattle underpass.

“There are poems left in their native tongues, Spanish, Arabic. The writers run from well-established poets to first-timers. And they reflect the diversity of the changing city, where cranes dot the skyline.

“Luna: Some of the poems express very well what it feels like to not recognize the place you grew up in, because the buildings that you had so much attachment and were meaningful to you are no longer there …

“Koon Woon: I first moved in here when I couldn’t afford rent anywhere else in the city. And my uncle said well, there’s a room here for $60 a month. And I came here to look at it. And there’s this tiny little table. I said, I can put my typewriter on top of that. So, I took the room. …

“Brown: Koon Woon was born in China, but moved to Seattle in 1960. In the 1980s, he lived just a block from here, sometimes homeless, struggling with mental illness. His poem, ‘The High Walls I Cannot Scale,’ is now part of the grid. …

“For 17-year-old Lily Baumgart [Seattle Youth Poet Laureate], animals figured into her writing as well.

“Baumgart: The squirrels here are very aggressive. They expect to be fed by people. And so we’d write stories about why they’d come up to people, how humans’ interactions with animals change their behaviors. … Volunteer Park, they say there’s a giant squid in the reservoir, that if you could climb the fence, you could stick your hand into the bright water and feel his slimy body swimming by yours. When it rained we would hide in trees and feel their cold bark underneath our toes. We’d laugh so loud that the sky would be scared of us and our umbrella laughter. …

“Brown: Poetry brought something else to Claudia Castro Luna, a way to work through traumatic childhood memories of war in El Salvador that forced her family to leave their home when she was 14.

“Luna: It was a tremendous loss of place, of culture, of family, of language. [All] of my writing has to do with understanding that — what it meant to lose that place. And this is why I’m interested in other people’s lives and what they have to say about the place they occupy.”

More at PBS NewsHour, here. See the Poetic Grid here.

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One of my grandsons goes to a Montessori school where the four-year-olds make lots of maps. They use templates to trace the continents (above).

Which is why I was intrigued to see a delightful National Geographic article about the map juvenalia of professional cartographers.

Betsy Mason wrote, “So many of the cartographers I’ve gotten to know while writing about maps seem to genuinely love their jobs.

It’s one of those professions with a disproportionate number of people who are really happy to be there.

“I suspect that one reason for this could be that many of them have loved maps since they were kids, and they’ve managed to turn that love into a career.

“This collection of childhood maps made by eight professional cartographers backs up that theory. I interviewed each of them about their early mapmaking, how they found their way into cartography, and what they love about their jobs today.

“Their stories all have their individual quirks, but there are some common threads. Several of them recall spending family trips poring over a road atlas in the back seat, for example. And some can still recall the precise moment when they knew they would make maps for a living.”

Here is Mason’s report on one of the two female mapmakers in the article.

“A class assignment to map out a family fire-escape plan probably seemed like more than just an exercise to young Rosemary Wardley. A couple of years earlier, some sheds behind her house had caught on fire.

” ‘I’m sure that was in the back of my mind,’ she says.

“And that’s likely why none of the paths she drew for her family members went out the back door toward the sheds. On the other hand, she deemed it perfectly safe to direct her oldest sister to jump into a pine tree outside of a second-story window …

“The hallway outside of ‘Rosie’s room’ was covered in U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps, and this wall was often Wardley’s first stop after a drive or a hike.

” ‘I always kind of went back there and had my dad point out where we had gone,’ she says. ‘Thinking back, that’s definitely the biggest thing that influenced me as a cartographer. It just made me have that love of geography.’

“Today, Wardley works at National Geographic, where she says the cartography is very collaborative. She makes maps for stories such as a photographer’s trek across China, but a lot of her time is spent editing and working with the data that goes into the maps. It’s the variety that appeals to her most, she says.”

Click to see maps the cartographers made in childhood.

Thank you for putting the link on Facebook, Asakiyume. I wouldn’t have known about this otherwise.

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Image: Collection of Stephen J. Hornsby/Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education
America—A Nation of One People From Many Countries,” by Emma Bourne, published in 1940 by the Council Against Intolerance in America.

At Atlas Obscura, Lauren Young writes about a powerful 1940 map showing America as a nation of immigrants.

“In the years leading up to the Second World War,” says Young, “isolationist sentiment coursed pretty strongly throughout the United States. Some Americans feared that immigrants were a threat to the country. …

“ ‘With the exception of the Indian, all Americans or their forefathers came here from other countries,’ the illustrator Emma Bourne inscribed on the map. The Council Against Intolerance commissioned Bourne’s work in an effort to remind Americans that the U.S. had always defined itself as a country of varied national origins and religious backgrounds.

“Bourne illustrates America’s unique ethnic and religious diversity by erasing state borderlines and showing the nation as one unit. Long red ribbons weave through the landscape to show clusters of immigrant groups and where they settled, from Japanese in the West to Italians in the East. At the bottom left is an inset scroll listing famous Americans in literature, science, industry, and the arts alongside their ethnic backgrounds, including George Gershwin and Albert Einstein, who became a U.S. citizen the year the map was published. …

“Bourne also emphasizes the range of religions present during this era, along with staple industries in each state, including a giant potato in Idaho, a huge fish in Washington, and large lobster in Maine. Detailed figures of people at work are meant to show how immigrants are active in creating a prosperous America.” Read more here.

(Thank you for the lead, Bob!)

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A US student studying in Hungary was stunned by the refugee crisis at his doorstep and felt compelled to do something.

David Karas wrote in early November at the Christian Science Monitor, “Among those struck by the extreme hardships confronting the refugees is a graduate student from Mobile, Ala., who had been traveling in Europe. Motivated to find a way to help, he used his background in information technology and software to help provide something in high demand but extremely scarce: information.

“David Altmayer has launched the Refugee Help Map – an interactive mapping platform using Google tools that provides details on where refugees are traveling and what needs they have – to assist volunteers in best providing aid.

“ ‘At the beginning, it was just to get more information out there,’ Mr. Altmayer says. ‘I started helping in the first place because I couldn’t just sit by and not help. And then I just tried to find ways that I could best use my skill set to help.’

“Altmayer had worked in Seattle on IT and software projects, and is currently pursuing an MBA and master’s degree in global management through the Thunderbird Graduate School of Global Management and the University of Indiana, Bloomington. In order to finish his degree, he had to select a couple of courses that would be held abroad. …

“ ‘I live about one kilometer [0.6 miles] from the main railway station here in Budapest,’ he says, By mid-August, migrants had begun to flock to the station to take shelter. ‘Every day there were more and more people basically living there – camping, setting up tents, sleeping on cardboard,’ he says.

“Some of Altmayer’s friends had been providing support to refugees, mainly by bringing them meals. Altmayer noticed other volunteer groups were providing assistance. Wanting to learn more, he began to explore online – only to discover a need that he and his computer-literate colleagues could help to address.

“ ‘More and more people had been asking where they could get information in English,’ he says. Most efforts to provide information were in Hungarian. Before he knew it, he had become part of a group that launched an English website, making details about locations and needs accessible to English-speaking refugees and volunteers. …

“In the first six weeks the map was online, it received more than 80,000 views. It is constantly updated with markers indicating the location and urgency of needs, as well as comments about conditions facing refugees.

“ ‘There are so many people using it and counting on it,’ Altmayer says.”

More here. I do love stories about people working to solve a problem by offering the skills they have.

Photo: Andrea Giuliano
US college student David Altmayer created the online Refugee Help Map while living in Budapest, Hungary. Here he is shopping for supplies to help  migrants in Serbia.

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And speaking of fairyland … would a map help?

You can view “Maps from Fiction” in the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center through October 25 — including a map of Fairyland, a map of Oz, and a map showing both Wild Island and the Island of Tangerina.

Mark Feeney writes at the Boston Globe, “Whether the places are real or imaginary, every map is itself a kind of fiction. Those lines and color shadings and cross-hatchings and numerals and words are as ‘real’ as the sentences in a novel or characters in a cartoon are.

“The London and southern England found in Holling C. Holling’s ‘Sherlock Holmes Mystery Map’ are as real as an order of fish and chips, but the events recorded on it aren’t. … The 100-Acre Wood of the Winnie-the-Pooh books are more familiar to some than their own backyards, in no small part thanks to the enchanting watercolors Ernest H. Shepard drew on its maps. What places are more vivid in the minds of readers than Midde-earth, Oz, Narnia, Neverland, H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, or George R.R. Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ lands?”

Feeney’s article also muses about a Harvard exhibition of historical maps called “Finding Our Way: An Exploration of Human Navigation.” More here.

Illustration: Ruth Chrisman Gannett
Map from the storybook
My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett.

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I have mentioned the Block Island Poetry Project in past years, and I wanted to let you know that I just got the scoop on this year’s theme.

Nancy writes, “The Block Island Poetry Project weekend will be April 16-19 and will focus on Poetry of the Wild, a project of Ana Flores, who visited just a few days ago to show us examples of what she’s been doing around the country for the last twelve years. … I’m in the process of developing my Poetry of the Wild poetry box project for the school.”

The Poetry of the Wild website explains, “Poetry of the Wild invites the public out for a walk to see their world anew through the keenly felt perspectives of poets and artists. Using a unique presentation of ‘poetry boxes’ that combine art and poetry, the project serves as a catalyst for exploring our towns and considering how place informs mindfulness. The public becomes engaged by finding the boxes which are sited as a network on mapped trails, reading the poems, and responding in the public journals contained in each.

“The sculptor Ana Flores created Poetry of the Wild in 2003 while she was the first artist in residence for the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association in Southern Rhode Island. Her mission was to use the arts to foster public awareness and stewardship of the land and waterways protected by the Association. That first project had a dozen boxes created by students from area schools, members of the environmental group and other artists. The public response was overwhelming during its three month tenure. It turned out that many people roaming the trails were poetic– but they had had no place to express themselves. Journals were replaced three times and the trails leading to boxes also became less littered.”

For more about Ana’s work, see earthinform.com. And for more about the Block Island Poetry Project (founded by 2008-2013 Rhode Island poet laureate Lisa Starr), click here.

Ana Flores

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