Of Maps and Memes: A Bit of Cartographic Fun

Co-Authored by Zhaneille Green

We use maps to communicate all the time. Historically, they have been used to navigate the world and to stand as visual, physical manifestations of defined spaces and places. What do you think of when we say “map”: a topographic map1 a transportation map2 or a city map3?

You can use maps to represent just about anything you want to say, far beyond these typical examples. We wrote this blog to invite you to have a little cartographic fun of your own.

If you’re on any kind of social media, you’ve probably seen maps like the one below, highlighting anything from each state’s favorite kind of candy to what the continental US would look like if all of the states’ borders were drawn along rivers and mountain ranges. People definitely seem to enjoy sharing these maps, curious to see what grocery store most people shop at in their home state, or laughing about California’s lack of popularity with the states in the surrounding area.

Map of most popular halloween candy in each US state. View the interactive version on candystore.com

Try your hand at creating your own silly map by using our programs in the Scholarly Commons. Start a war by creating a map that ranks the Southern states with the best barbecue using Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, or explore a personal hobby like creating a map of all the creatures Sam & Dean Winchester met through the 15 seasons of Supernatural using ArcGIS.

If you’re feeling a bit more serious, don’t fret! Even if these meme-like maps aren’t portraying the most critical information, they do demonstrate how maps can be a great tool for data visualization. In many ways, location can make data feel more personal, because we all have personal connections to place. Admit it: the first thing you checked on the favorite candy map was your home state. Maps also tend to be more visually engaging than a simple table with, for example, states in one column and favorite animal in the other.

Using geotagging data, each dot represents where a photo was taken: blue for locals, red for tourists, and yellow for unknown. Locals and Tourists #1 (GTWA #2): London. Erica Fischer, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

Regardless of what you want to map, the Scholarly Commons has the tools to help bring your vision to life. Learn about software access on our website, and check out these LinkedIn Learning resources for an introduction to ArcGIS Online or Photoshop, which are available with University of Illinois login credentials. If you need more assistance, feel free to ask us questions. Go forth and meme!

Introducing Drop-In Consultation Hours at the Scholarly Commons!

Do you have a burning question about data management, copyright, or even how to work Adobe Photoshop but do not have the time to set up an appointment? This semester, the Scholarly Commons is happy to introduce our new drop-in consultation hours! Each weekday, we will have an expert from a different scholarly subject have an open hour or two where you can bring any question you have about that’s expert’s specialty. These will all take place in room 220 in the Main Library in Group Room A (right next to the Scholarly Commons help desk). Here is more about each session:

 

Mondays 11 AM – 1 PM: Data Management with Sandi Caldrone

This is a photo of Sandi Caldrone, who works for Research Data Services and will be hosting the Monday consultation hours from 11 AM - 1 PMStarting us off, we have Sandi Caldrone from Research Data Services offering consultation hours on data management. Sandi can help with topics such as creating a data management plan, organizing/storing your data, data curation, and more. She can also help with questions around the Illinois Data Bank and the Dryad Repository.

 

 
 

Tuesdays 11 AM – 1 PM: GIS with Wenjie Wang

Next up, we have Wenjie Wang from the Scholarly Commons to offer consultation about Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Have a question about geocoding, geospatial analysis, or even where to locate GIS data? Wenjie can help! He can also answer any questions related to using ArcGIS or QGIS.

 
 

Wednesdays 11 AM – 12 PM: Copyright with Sara Benson

This is a photo of Copyright Librarian Sara Benson who will be hosting the Wednesday consultation hours from 11 AM - 12 PMDo you have questions relating to copyright and your dissertation, negotiating an author’s agreement, or seeking permission to include an image in your own work? Feel free to drop in during Copyright Librarian Sara Benson’s open copyright hours to discuss any copyright questions you may have.

 

 

 

Thursdays 1-3 PM: Qualitative Data Analysis with Jess Hagman

This is a photo of Jess Hagman, who works for the Social Science, Education, and Health Library and will be hosting the Thursday consultation hours from 1 PM - 3 PMJess Hagman from the Social Science, Health, and Education Library is here to help with questions related to performing qualitative data analysis (QDA). She can walk you through any stage of the qualitative data analysis process regardless of data or methodology. She can also assist in operating QDA software including NVivo, Atlas.ti, MAXQDA, Taguette, and many more! For more information, you can also visit the qualitative data analysis LibGuide.

 

 

 
 

Fridays 10 AM – 12 PM: Graphic Design and Multimedia with JP Goguen

To end the week, we have JP Goguen from the Scholarly/Media Commons with consultation hours related to graphic design and multimedia. Come to JP with any questions you may have about design or photo/video editing. You can also bring JP any questions related to software found on the Adobe Creative Cloud (such as Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere Pro, etc.).

 

Have another Scholarly Inquiry?

If there is another service you need help with, you are always welcome to stop by the Scholarly Commons help desk in room 220 of the Main Library between 10 AM – 6 PM Monday-Friday. From here, we can get you in contact with another specialist to guide you through your research inquiry. Whatever your question may be, we are happy to help you!

What Are the Digital Humanities?

Introduction

As new technology has revolutionized the ways all fields gather information, scholars have integrated the use of digital software to enhance traditional models of research. While digital software may seem only relevant in scientific research, digital projects play a crucial role in disciplines not traditionally associated with computer science. One of the biggest digital initiatives actually takes place in fields such as English, History, Philosophy, and more in what is known as the digital humanities. The digital humanities are an innovative way to incorporate digital data and computer science within the confines of humanities-based research. Although some aspects of the digital humanities are exclusive to specific fields, most digital humanities projects are interdisciplinary in nature. Below are three general impacts that projects within the digital humanities have enhanced the approaches to humanities research for scholars in these fields.

Digital Access to Resources

Digital access is a way of taking items necessary for humanities research and creating a system where users can easily access these resources. This work involves digitizing physical items and formatting them to store them on a database that permits access to its contents. Since some of these databases may hold thousands or millions of items, digital humanists also work to find ways so that users may locate these specific items quickly and easily. Thus, digital access requires both the digitization of physical items and their storage on a database as well as creating a path for scholars to find them for research purposes.

Providing Tools to Enhance Interpretation of Data and Sources

The digital humanities can also change how we can interpret sources and other items used in the digital humanities. Data Visualization software, for example, helps simplify large, complex datasets and presents this data in ways more visually appealing. Likewise, text mining software uncovers trends through analyzing text that potentially saves hours or even days for digital humanists had they analyzed the text through analog methods. Finally, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software allows for users working on humanities projects to create special types of maps that can both assist in visualizing and analyzing data. These software programs and more have dramatically transformed the ways digital humanists interpret and visualize their research.

Digital Publishing

The digital humanities have opened new opportunities for scholars to publish their work. In some cases, digital publishing is simply digitizing an article or item in print to expand the reach of a given publication to readers who may not have direct access to the physical version. Other times, some digital publishing initiatives publish research that is only accessible in a digital format. One benefit to digital publishing is that it opens more opportunities for scholars to publish their research and expands the audience for their research than just publishing in print. As a result, the digital humanities provide scholars more opportunities to publish their research while also expanding the reach of their publications.

How Can I Learn More About the Digital Humanities?

There are many ways to get involved both at the University of Illinois as well as around the globe. Here is just a list of a few examples that can help you get started on your own digital humanities project:

  • HathiTrust is a partnership through the Big Ten Academic Alliance that holds over 17 million items in its collection.
  • Internet Archive is a public, multimedia database that allows for open access to a wide range of materials.
  • The Scholarly Commons page on the digital humanities offers many of the tools used for data visualization, text mining, GIS software, and other resources that enhance analysis within a humanities project. There are also a couple of upcoming Savvy Researcher workshops that will go over how to use software used in the digital humanities
  • Sourcelab is an initiative through the History Department that works to publish and preserve digital history projects. Many other humanities fields have equivalents to Sourcelab that serves the specific needs of a given discipline.

Introductions: What is GIS, anyways?

This post is part of a series where we introduce you to the various topics that we cover in the Scholarly Commons. Maybe you’re new to the field or you’re just to the point where you’re just too afraid to ask… Fear not! We are here to take it back to the basics!

So, what is GIS, anyways?

Geographic Information Systems, or GIS as it is often referred to, is a way of gathering, maintaining, and analyzing data. GIS uses geography and spatial data to create visualizations using maps. This is a very useful way to analyze your data to identify and understand trends, relationships, and patterns in your data over a geographic region. Simply put, it is a way of visualizing data geographically and the key to GIS is in spatial data. In addition to spatial data, there is attribute data which is basically any other data as it relates to the spatial data. For example, if you were looking at the University of Illinois campus, the actual location of the buildings would be spatial data, while the type of building (i.e. an academic, laboratory, recreation, etc) would be attribute data. Using these two types of data together can allow researchers to explore and answer difficult questions.

While it can get more complex than that, since this is an introductions series, we won’t go into the fine details. If you want to learn more about GIS and the projects you can do with it, you can reach out to the Scholarly Common’s GIS Specialist, Wenjie Wang.

So, who uses GIS?

Anyone can use GIS! You can use maps to visualize your data to identify problems, monitor change, set priorities, and forecast fluctuations.

There are GIS technologies and applications that assist researchers in performing GIS. The Scholarly Commons has a wide range of GIS resources, including software that you can access from your own computer and a directory of geospatial data available throughout the web and University Library resources. 

If you’re interested in learning more about GIS application and software and how to apply it to your own projects you can fill out a consultation request formattend a Savvy Researcher WorkshopLive Chat with us on Ask a Librarian, or send us an email. We are always happy to help!

 

 

References

Dempsey, C. (2019, August 16). What is GIS? GIS Lounge. https://www.gislounge.com/what-is-gis/

What is GIS? | Geographic Information System Mapping Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://www.esri.com/en-us/what-is-gis/overview

Holiday Data Visualizations

The fall 2020 semester is almost over, which means that it is the holiday season again! We would especially like to wish everyone in the Jewish community a happy first night of Hanukkah tonight.

To celebrate the end of this semester, here are some fun Christmas and Hanukkah-related data visualizations to explore.

Popular Christmas Songs

First up, in 2018 data journalist Jon Keegan analyzed a dataset of 122 hours of airtime from a New York radio station in early December. He was particularly interested in discovering if there was a particular “golden age” of Christmas music, since nowadays it seems that most artists who release Christmas albums simply cover the same popular songs instead of writing a new song. This is a graph of what he discovered:

Based on this dataset, 65% of popular Christmas songs were originally released in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Despite the notable exception of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” from the 90s, most of the beloved “Holiday Hits” come from the mid-20th century.

As for why this is the case, the popular webcomic XKCD claims that every year American culture tries to “carefully recreate the Christmases of Baby Boomers’ childhoods.” Regardless of whether Christmas music reflects the enduring impact of the postwar generation on America, Keegan’s dataset is available online to download for further exploration.

Christmas Trees

Last year, Washington Post reporters Tim Meko and Lauren Tierney wrote an article about where Americans get their live Christmas trees from. The article includes this map:

The green areas are forests primarily composed of evergreen Christmas trees, and purple dots represent Choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms. 98% of Christmas trees in America are grown on farms, whether it’s a choose-and-cut farm where Americans come to select themselves or a farm that ships trees to stores and lots.

This next map shows which counties produce the most Christmas trees:

As you can see, the biggest Christmas tree producing areas are New England, the Appalachians, the Upper Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest, though there are farms throughout the country.

The First Night of Hanukkah

This year, Hanukkah starts tonight, December 10, but its start date varies every year. However, this is not the case on the primarily lunar-based Hebrew Calendar, in which Hanukkah starts on the 25th night of the month of Kislev. As a result, the days of Hanukkah vary year-to-year on other calendars, particularly the solar-based Gregorian calendar. It can occur as early as November 28 and as late as December 26.

In 2016, Hannukah began on December 24, Christmas Eve, so Vox author Zachary Crockett created this graphic to show the varying dates on which the first night of Hannukah has taken place from 1900 to 2016:

The Spelling of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a Hebrew word, so as a result there is no definitive spelling of the word in the Latin alphabet I am using to write this blog post. In Hebrew it is written as חנוכה and pronounced hɑːnəkə in the phonetic alphabet.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, when transliterating the pronounced word into English writing, the first letter ח, for example, is pronounced like the ch in loch. As a result, 17th century transliterations spell the holiday as Chanukah. However, ח does not sounds like the way ch does when its at the start of an English word, such as in chew, so in the 18th century the spelling Hanukkah became common. However, the H on its own is not quite correct either. More than twenty other spelling variations have been recorded due to various other transliteration issues.

It’s become pretty common to use Google Trends to discover which spellings are most common, and various journalists have explored this in past years. Here is the most recent Google search data comparing the two most commons spellings, Hanukkah and Chanukah going back to 2004:

You can also click this link if you are reading this article after December 2020 and want even more recent data.

As you would expect, the terms are more common every December. It warrants further analysis, but it appears that Chanukah is becoming less common in favor of Hanukkah, possibly reflecting some standardization going on. At some point, the latter may be considered the standard term.

You can also use Google Trends to see what the data looks like for Google searches in Israel:

Again, here is a link to see the most recent version of this data.

In Israel, it also appears as though the Hanukkah spelling is also becoming increasingly common, though early on there were years in which Chanukah was the more popular spelling.


I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these brief explorations into data analysis related to Christmas and Hanukkah and the quick discoveries we made with them. But more importantly, I hope you have a happy and relaxing holiday season!

Mapping Native Land

Fall break is fast approaching and with it will be Thanksgiving! No matter what your traditions are, we all know that this year’s holiday season will look a little bit different. As we move into the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to share a mapping project to give thanks and recognize the native lands we live on.

Native Land is an open-source mapping project that shows the indigenous territories across the world. This interactive map allows you to input your address or click and explore to determine what indigenous land you reside on. Not only that but Native Land shares educational information about these nations, their languages, or treaties.  They also include a Teacher’s Guide for various wide age range from children to adults. Users are able to export images of their map, too!

Native Land Map

NativeLand.ca Map Interface

Canadian based and indigenous-led, Native Land Digital aims to educate and bring awareness to the complex histories of the land we inhibit. This platform strives to create conversations about indigenous communities between those with native heritage as well as those without. Native Land Digital values the sacredness of land and they use this platform to honor the history of where we reside. Learn more about their mission and impact on their “Why It Matters” page.

Native Land uses MapBox and WordPress to generate their interactive map. MapBox is an open source mapping platform for custom designed maps. Native Land is available as an App for iOS and Android and they have a texting service, as well. You can find more information about how it works here.

If you’d like to learn more about mapping software, the Scholarly Commons has Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, consultations, and workshops available. The Scholarly Commons webpage on GIS is a great place to get started.

 The University of Illinois is a land-grant institution and resides on Kickapoo territory. Where do you stand?

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Land Acknowledgement Statement

As a land-grant institution, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a responsibility to acknowledge the historical context in which it exists. In order to remind ourselves and our community, we will begin this event with the following statement. We are currently on the lands of the Peoria, Kaskaskia, Piankashaw, Wea, Miami, Mascoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Mesquaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Chickasaw Nations. It is necessary for us to acknowledge these Native Nations and for us to work with them as we move forward as an institution. Over the next 150 years, we will be a vibrant community inclusive of all our differences, with Native peoples at the core of our efforts.

Tomorrow! Big Ten Academic Alliance GIS Conference 2020

Save the date! Tomorrow is the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) GIS Conference 2020. This event is 100% virtual and free of charge to anyone who wants to engage with the community of GIS specialists and researchers from Big Ten institutions.

The conference kicks off tonight with a GIS Day Trivia Night event at 5:30PM CST! There is a Map Gallery that is open to view from now until November 13th, 2020. The gallery features research that incorporates GIS from Big Ten institutions, so be sure to check it out! There will be lighting talks, presentations, social hours, and a keynote address from Dr. Orhun Aydin, Senior Researcher at Esri, so be sure to check out the full schedule of events and register here.

This event is a great way to network and learn more applications of GIS for research. If you are interested in GIS but don’t know where to start, this event is a great place to get inspired. If you are an experienced GIS researcher, this event is an opportunity to meet colleagues and learn from your peers. Overall this is a great event for anyone interested in GIS and the perfect way to start Geography Awareness Week, which goes from November 15th-21st this year!

GIS Resources for Distance Learning and Working from Home

Planet Earth wearing a doctor's maskThe past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for everyone as we’ve all sought to adjust to working, attending school, socializing, and just carrying out our daily lives online. Here at the Scholarly Commons, we’ve been working hard to ensure that this transition is as smooth as possible for those of you relying on specialized software to conduct your research or do your classwork. That’s why this week we wanted to highlight some resources essential to anyone using or teaching with GIS as we work through this period of social distancing. 

Continue reading

Lightning Review: The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data

One of the first challenges encountered by anyone seeking to start a new GIS project is where to find good, high quality geospatial data. The field of geographic information science has a bit of a problem in which there are simultaneously too many possible data sources for any one researcher to be familiar with all of them, as well as too few resources available to help you navigate them all. Luckily, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data is here to help!

The front cover of the book "The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data" by Joseph J. Kerski and Jill Clark. Continue reading

Featured Resource: QGIS, a Free, Open Source Mapping Platform

This week, geographers around the globe took some time to celebrate the software that allows them to analyze, well, that very same globe. November 13th marked the 20th annual GIS Day,  an “international celebration of geographic information systems,” as the official GIS Day website puts it.

the words "GIS day" in a stylized font appear below a graphic of a globe with features including buildings, trees, and water

But while GIS technology has revolutionized the way we analyze and visualize maps over the past two decades, the high cost of ArcGIS products, long recognized as the gold standard for cartographic analysis tools, is enough to deter many people from using it. At the University of Illinois and other colleges and universities, access to ArcGIS can be taken for granted, but many of us will not remain in the academic world forever. Luckily, there’s a high-quality alternative to ArcGIS for those who want the benefits of mapping software without the pricetag!

the QGIS logo

QGIS is a free, open source mapping software that has most of the same functionality as ArcGIS. While some more advanced features included in ArcGIS do not have analogues in QGIS, developers are continually updating the software and new features are always being added. As it stands now, though, QGIS includes everything that the casual GIS practitioner could want, along with almost everything more advanced users need.

As is often the case with open source software alternatives, QGIS has a large, vibrant community of supporters, and its developers have put together tons of documentation on how to use the program, such as this user guide. Generally speaking, if you have any experience with ArcGIS it’s very easy to learn QGIS—for a picture of the learning curve, think somewhere along the lines of switching from Microsoft Word to Google Docs. And if you don’t have experience, the community is there to help! There are many guides to getting started, including the one listed in the above link, and more forum posts of users working through questions together than anyone could read in a lifetime. 

For more help, stop by to take a look at one of the QGIS guidebooks in our reference collection, or send us an email at sc@library.illinois.edu!

Have you made an interesting map in QGIS? Send us pictures of your creations on Twitter @ScholCommons!