Tuesday 23 December 2008

Spatial context (plus slideshare)

A quick post today since I'm supposed to be on 'holiday' and 'off' work. I've recently got into slideshare, for putting your PowerPoint presentations online. Very useful for conferences and even teaching too. I won't say much more than this, other than that the slides below relate to my relatively recent work on spatial context, deprivation, and area effects. Maybe I'll be back before New Year but maybe not...
Spatial Context 151208
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: deprivation spatial)
Thanks to Alex Hardman for getting me into this! Note that you can view the slides full screen by clicking the screen icon in the bottom right of the slideshare.

Friday 19 December 2008

Simple is often better

When working with GIS boundaries, I'm often only really interested in them from a general point of view so that I can create simple choropleth maps. Also, if I'm trying to publish them over the web, there's no need to provide very accurate boundaries. Therefore, it's always useful to have different ways of simplifying boundaries. I have used various tools for this, including ET GeoWizards free tools and some of the in-built functionality of ArcGIS 9.x. However, the most convenient and flexible tool I've come across so far is MapShaper. They have an alpha testing version of their Flash-based interface here and it's really easy to use. There is a 16MB file size limit, but I've still found it to be very effective. It doesn't require much (if any) expert knowledge of GIS or of file formats, and you can simplify or smooth using a number of different methods (see images below). All in all, a very useful tool!

Thursday 4 December 2008

Urban Policy - a Time for CHANGE?

At the risk of becoming a prolific blogger, I want to add some new thoughts on the extent to which the arrival of Barack Obama as President of the United States will have an impact on my main field of study - urban policy. This is interesting to me for a number of reasons:

1. Obama's recent background is in Chicago; a city where housing and urban policy are high on the agenda and where it has been very controversial;
2. Policy-transfer from the US to the UK is increasingly common, but not unproblematic, so any new developments there will surely impact here;
3. He promised to create a White House Office of Urban Policy;
4. He talks of 'targeting' federal dollars to urban areas and effective spending on 'high-impact' programs, but isn't this ignoring the real causes which are not in the areas that need targeting?
5. It raises the prospect of more people taking note of the work we do (e.g.)!

For the time being, however, it's just a case of wait and see and keep working on things. Right now, I'm writing a new paper which explores the extent to which spatial targeting of deprived areas for things like employment is actually a fundamentally flawed approach when there is no guarantee that jobs created in, or nearby, the poorest neighbourhoods will be of benefit to residents there.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

ScreenToaster - a new tool

I've recently discovered ScreenToaster (via demogirl). What on earth is it? It's a tool for making toast online. Okay, not really. It's a really smart tool that allows you to record your screen activity, then upload it to their website where other people can view it. So, if your Mum wants you to show her how to do something it's great for that, but it could also be of use to people who teach various software skills - in Universities for example. It's not a replacement for traditional screencasting software but I rate it very highly as a new tool on the scene. Quick example below...

As you can see, the quality is very good and you just copy and paste the html text into your web page, blog or whatever and then share it with whoever you like. You can increase the size of the video to fill the whole screen and it remains quite high quality. I recommend it. That's all for now but more e-learning things will appear in the future...

Monday 1 December 2008

World city rankings by search engine results

I've been thinking recently a lot about methods we use to rank, count and understand urban areas. This is a topic which the Globalisation and World Cities Group (GaWC) at Loughborough University in the UK have become world leaders in. I also wrote a paper about this some time ago and I'm still interested in it more generally but not so much from an academic research point of view these days. However, I was reminded about a paper which I referred to in the SGJ article mentioned above - a paper written by the aptly named Florian Urban. He looked at the representation of cities on the internet in his 2002 paper from the perspective of place marketing and representation. However, I wondered recently what outcome you would get if you simply entered city names into google (I did try others but google seems to return more results than all others). Not surprisingly, the results match those which are typically published and based on much more complex analyses...[read the caveats below too]

  1. New York = 827m ("new york city" returns only about 102m)
  2. London = 539m
  3. Paris = 597m
  4. Tokyo = 142m in English, plus 427m for 東京 for a total of 569m
  5. Hong Kong = 246m in English, plus 290m for 香港 for a total of 536m
  6. Los Angeles = 267m (quotes or not, doesn't seem to make much difference)
  7. Singapore = 221m
  8. Chicago = 337m
  9. Seoul = 35.5m
  10. Toronto = 157m
Caveats... New York could be the city or state, Seoul has some name issues that mean even if you use the simplified Chinese characters to seach the indexed pages result doesn't increase much, there is a massive English speaking bias here too (but then that reflects the real world to an extent). Also, the extent to which the web is US-centric comes out here. For comparison, Beijing/北京 returns (105+555 =) 660m. You'll also get different results day to day, with a general trend of increase.

Okay, so these results are not at all scientific, but they do quite closely match the kinds of rankings you see in the academic, popular and web press. What about cities in the UK? Well, we have Manchester at 139m ( swelled by football references?), Birmingham at 85m, Glasgow at 58m, Edinburgh at 53m, Leeds at 46m, Sheffield at 39m and Inverness at 14m. No doubt there's a lot of noise in these results but again it mirrors other ways of measuring.

In my work, I'm much more interested in the places far lower down the urban 'hierarchy' and not so much in rankings but it's interesting to see how this little exercise has turned out.