A spatial rant…


Comic by Randall Munroe at XKCD

From text to map

Behind any beautiful digital map lies the reality that every point, line or polygon is generated by some form of numerical and textual data.  Here is an example of a “placemark” written in KML:

A few more options…

Instruction: Copy and paste this code into a text editor, and save it as a .kml file. Double click on the file to open it in Google Earth.

A Simple Web Map

A different markup language produces a map for a different platform. Here, we combine CSS, HTML, and Javascript to produce a map using the open-source map library Leaflet:

Instructions: Paste this code into a text editor, and save it as an html file. Double click to open the map on a web browser.

History mapped

A paper map can be scanned and made digital.  As an image, it does not know “where it is”, in terms of its spatiality.  A process called “georeferencing” allows us to “spatialize” printed documents, and put them in the context of other spatial layers.  Here is an example of one of the most famous historical maps, the “John Snow Map” from 1854 that illustrates a Cholera outbreak that attacked London.

John Snow Cholera map (1854)

The same map can be visualized on a GIS platform, in this case, Google Earth:

John Snow map on google earth

[John Snow in Google Earth]

How to view in Google Earth

  1. Right click on the hyperlink and select “copy link address”
  2. Open Google Earth, Add, Network Link
  3. Give the network link a name, and paste the hyperlink

Age of Los Angeles


Los Angeles 1857-2002

LA 1881[Historical Los Angeles Maps in Google Earth]

Thinking spatially

I was recently exposed to an urban humanities project titled “Forensic Empathy.” The basis of this mapping project is to raise awareness about migrant deaths and lessening the suffering of families by helping to provide closure through the identification of the deceased and the return of remains. One representation of “data” associated to the project comes from the Arizona OpenGIS Initiative.


Palladio Workshop