Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Locative Metadata

Over the past few days I've been tinkering with alternatives for representing locative metadata. I stumbled across John Emerson's DIY Map, which layers together a Flash movie with XML, and I've been encouraged with the results. Emerson's project has been around for over two years; the release history tells that it came about just before the release of the Google maps API in Feb. of 2005.

One nice thing about DIY Map is that it cooperates with basic XML, so the 78kb Flash map can match with multiple sets of data to create various maps. The XML files are small and easy to customize or edit as data-sets change. Consider, for comparison, the map of the RC Consortium I put together using Frappr a year ago. Frappr is adequate for locating the 73 members on the list, but it wants to frame them as people rather than institutions or programs. While Frappr puts the Google maps API to good use, its design inhibits the simpler plotting of points that I'm after. I also liked that Frappr made it possible to embed the map in another site, but Emerson's project manages this, too. Frappr's admin tools left a lot to be desired in that the data couldn't easily be exported or edited in batches (to switch from people to groups, for instance).

Map I. Doctoral Consortium in Rhetoric and Composition.

For the most part, the points should link to the web site for each respective program; however, as I copied and pasted the data from the consortium site, I found a few broken links. Those can be resolved easily enough later on. In the XML file, I have set the data point size to 2. All of the colors are established with hex codes, and I've applied a different shade in zones (states) where the data is zero, or, in other words, where there aren't any members of the consortium. Emerson's approach here is smart, too, because the color scheme for all data points is controlled from one set of lines in the XML file. Navigating the map may take a few minutes to get used to. You can drag a box over regions of the map you would like to enlarge. Clicking in a particular state will enlarge the state and center it in the frame.

I'm aware of the inherent limitation of the U.S.-centrism. DIY Map has other countries and regions available. This isn't a problem in the map of the consortium because there aren't yet any members beyond the U.S. (as far as I know; granted, this list doesn't account for changes in membership over the past year or so). But should the consortium add members in other parts of the world, the default frame would need to be reconsidered. Of course, because the data points make use of grid coordinates, transferring them over to a global view would be fairly manageable.

Because it was relatively easy to do, I threw together XML files for a few other data sets. This map shows the locations of the chairs' addresses and CCCC conferences since 1977.

Map II. CCCC Chairs' Addresses.

Here I've used alternating marker sizes to show, for example, that the conference has been in Chicago four times since 1977. The markers indicating addresses that have also been published in CCC Online Archive are linked to the corresponding page on that site (click on San Antonio to see what I mean).

There's much more to say about this, and I'll try to share some of the other maps later this week (after my computer is back from repair). Finally, here is the chunk of code for embedding one of these maps in another site, should anyone have an interest in doing such a thing:

<object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=7,0,0,0" width="500" height="297" id="zoom_map" align="top">
<param name="movie" value="http://www.earthwidemoth.com/side/flashmap/us.swf?data_file=http://www.earthwidemoth.com/mt/flashmap/addresses.xml" />
<param name="quality" value="high" />
<param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF" />
<embed src="http://www.earthwidemoth.com/mt/flashmap/us.swf?data_file=http://www.earthwidemoth.com/mt/flashmap/addresses.xml" quality="high" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" width="500" height="297" name="Clickable U.S. Map" align="top"

This bit of code applies to the map of the chairs' addresses (addresses.xml). For the RC Consortium, switch the file name to rhetcomp.xml.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at December 26, 2006 3:45 PM to Rhetorico-Geography