The Future, Coming Soon to a City Near You

In 1543, Copernicus published “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres,” which sketched out a vision that the Earth, as a round and floating form, circled the Sun along with neighboring planets. History will not rank innovations in mapping technology in recent years in the Copernicus league; these tools haven’t initiated fundamental challenges to political and religious orders required to justify that comparison.  However, I have been amazed to see changes in the geographic information systems (GIS) realm, and in related map technology.

Donjek projects have used GIS analytics and images in a range of ways, and I am currently developing new applications of these tools for clients in real estate development, investment, and urban planning (more to come on this topic).  The inspiration for this post, however, is to display how mapping tools can create meaningful observations from opaque bodies of data.
The maps included here represent cell phone usage in the small town of Graz, Austria, and illustrate a novel approach to understanding places.  By identifying roads or rivers or museums or transit stations or academic buildings, maps give us a visual sense of how features and places are connected. Urban maps also depict where centers are, marked by downtowns, plazas, intersections.  Mapping cell phone data is a real-time approach to understanding where centers are, when they are, and perhaps even why certain places function as they do.
About ten years ago, I enjoyed a very rich two weeks in Rome, Florence and the Liguria region in Italy. A particular highlight, among several, was beholding the imposing globe at the Medici palace in Florence. Built in the 1560s – only twenty years after Copernicus’ famous release, and seventy years after Columbus landed in the West Indies – the globe is over six feet in diameter and represents a period of great discovery and curiosity. As I’ve thought of it in recent years, the globe is a symbol of an evolving view – of the shape of the Earth, its place in the solar system, and its far-flung features and peoples.
Could the developing tools for mapping open our eyes to the space around us in some similar fashion? I will stay tuned.