Cartographic research provides fertile ground for people to conjure up new and impressive work. Such work is largely experimental by design and can take advantage of relatively unrestricted objectives. A lot of research also benefits from being part of a live exhibition where space and format give people a way of exploring interesting new concepts. In some respects, this type of work may be thought of as the equivalent to Formula 1 motor racing in the sense that the investment in one-off technologies provides both a spectacle but also advances engineering that eventually trickles down to the family car. Cartographic experimentation often plays with format and design in a way that we subsequently begin to see in everyday work.
MIT’s senseable city lab are masters of cartographic experimentation. Their LIVE Singapore! series has developed an ecosystem of maps and feeds of information about the city. Their 2011 examples created six different visualizations from six different streams of data about the city. They each showcase a particular theme of relevance to Singapore that is dynamic and immersive and based on monitoring the real-time city through a network of cameras, communication devices and sensors. Of course, the maps they produce are also revealing and communicative. The video below illustrates the 2011 examples and a little of how the examples were seen by visitors to the actual exhibition itself.
What the exhibition initiated was a way to explore the mapping of live data streams as a way to track the pulse of the city. Key to this, cartographicaly, is the use of animation of the map…and animation of the symbology on the map. Moving maps can be quite disorienting and there’s no doubt that it’s difficult to isolate and interpret a specific moment but much like a film, you’re expected to consider the whole story; perhaps recalling some of the main events (peaks, troughs, highlights).
These maps begin with fairly standard ways of representation but they bring an added dimension to them as techniques through experimentation. We already see evidence of this in maps produced now, some 5 years later.
You can see more of LIVE Singapore! on the web site here.