A map that reveals patterns of arrangement of buildings

A dataset containing 125,192,184 computer generated building footprints in all 50 US states is the source for a New York Times’s map of every building in America.

Published on 12th October, this map represents every building in the US by a black speck, reflecting the built legacy of the United States.

The dataset was publicly released by Microsoft early this year. The company’s computer engineers trained a neural network to analyze satellite imagery and then to trace the shapes of buildings across the country.

DNN architecture: The network foundation is ResNet34. The model is fully-convolutional, meaning that the model can be applied to an image of any size (constrained by GPU memory, 4096×4096 in the case).

The map reveals patterns in the arrangements of buildings. Traditional road maps highlight streets and highways; here they show up as a linear absence. As a result, “… you can read history in the transition from curving, paved-over cow paths in old downtowns to suburban sprawl; you can detect signals of wealth and poverty, sometimes almost next door to each other.”.

In the south of New Orleans, it’s possible to notice the layout of buildings along a narrow spit of land on either side of a Louisiana bayou, which may reflect the imprint of the region’s history under France: “… “long lot” development, which stretched skinny holdings laterally away from important waterways. Geography shapes settlement, but culture does, as well.”
Buildings along Louisiana bayou

Visualizing time, texture and themes in historical drawings

Past vision is a collection of historical drawings visualized in a thematic and temporal arrangement. The interface highlights general trends in the overall collection and gives access to rich details of individual items.

The case study examines the potential of visualization when applied to, and developed for, cultural heritage collections. It specifically explores how techniques aimed at visualizing the quantitative structure of a collection can be coupled with a more qualitative mode that allows for detailed examination of the artifacts and their contexts by displaying high-resolution views of digitized cultural objects with detailed art historical research findings.

Past vision is a research project by Urban Complexity Lab at Potsdam University of Applied Sciences.

Reference: “Past Visions and Reconciling Views: Visualizing Time, Texture and Themes in Cultural Collections.” ResearchGate. Accessed March 8, 2018.

Visualizing cultural collections

Browsing the content from Information Plus Conference (2016 edition) I bumped into a really interesting presentation regarding the use of graphical user interfaces and data visualization to support the exploration of large-scale digital cultural heritage.

One View is Not Enough: High-level Visualizations of Large Cultural Collections is a contribution by the Urban Complexity Lab, from the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. Check the talk by Marian Dörk:

As many cultural heritage institutions, such as museums, archives, and libraries, are digitizing their assets, there is a pressing question which is how can we give access to this large-scale and complex inventories? How can we present it in a way to let people can draw meaning from it, get inspired and entertained and maybe even educated?

The Urban Complexity Lab tackle this open problem by investigating and developing graphical user interfaces and different kinds of data visualizations to explore and visualize cultural collections in a way to show high-level patterns and relationships.

In this specific talk, Marian presents two projects conducted at the Lab. The first, DDB visualized, is a project in partnership with the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. Four interactive visualizations make the vast extent of the German Digital Library visible and explorable. Periods, places and persons are three of the categories, while keywords provide links to browsable pages of the library itself.

 

The second, GEI – Digital, is a project in partnership with the Georg Eckert Institute. This data dossier provides multi-faceted perspectives on GEI-Digital, a digital library of historical schoolbooks created and maintained by the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research.