Eighth International Conference on Population Geographies Brisbane, Australia, 30 June 2015 to 3 July 2015

Dear All,

We are delighted to announce that the 8th International Conference on Population Geographies will be held at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, from 30 June to 3 July 2015.

Essential details of the conference are available on the University of Queensland website at: http://www.gpem.uq.edu.au/icpg2015. As you will see, we expect to launch the full conference website, with more details, in mid November with the call for abstracts at the start of December.

The ICPG is unique! The previous conference in Groningen was a great success, and with your help we hope to create an equally stimulating and enjoyable event in Brisbane in mid 2015.

We expect to do a more general mail-out to potential participants within the next month. In the meantime, please feel free to publicise the Brisbane ICPG 2015, as widely as possible, and contact us if you have any queries.

We hope to welcome you to Brisbane in June next year.

Very best wishes

Martin Bell

on behalf of the ICPG2015 Organising Committee

Working Lines


As a followup to Tube Tongues I’ve published Working Lines which is exactly the same concept, except it looks at the occupation statistics from the 2011 census, and shows the most popular occupation by tube station. Again, lots of spatial clustering of results, and some interesting trends come out – for example, the prevalence of teachers in Zones 3-4, that there is a stop on the central line in north-east London which serves a lot of taxi drivers, and that bodyguards really are a big business for serving the rich and famous around Knightsbridge.

The northern line (above) stands out as one that serves a community of artists (to the north) and less excitingly a community of business administrators (to the south). Tottenham/Seven Sisters has a predominance of cleaners, and unsurprisingly perhaps plenty of travel agents live near Heathrow. I never knew that the western branch of the central line, towards West Ruislip, was so popular with construction workers. Etc etc.

Only the actively working population is included, rather than the full population of each area. This makes the numbers included in each buffer smaller, so I’ve upped the lower limit to the greater of 3% and 30 people, to cut down on small-number noise and minimise the effect of any statistical record swapping.

Visit the new oobrien.com Shop
High quality lithographic prints of London data, designed by Oliver O'Brien
Electric Tube
London North/South

Envitia-led consortium secures Dstl contract extension – DirectionsMag.com

Envitia-led consortium secures Dstl contract extension
GEOCORE, a consortium of leading academic and industry partners, led by Envitia, has been awarded a major new follow-on contract by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), following two successful years of delivering applied research to ...

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The Football Tribes


London has many football clubs – but where in London do their supporters live, work or go out? In the area immediately near their hallowed grounds, or far away. Are there some clubs that attract a wide support from across the capital? Are there sharp dividing lines in the city, between rival supporters of closely-located clubs?

All these questions and more can be answered by this striking Twitter analysis of tweets relating to the clubs. Muhammad Adnan and Guy Lansley at UCL collected “tweets” (with attached location) over the 2013/14 football season, looking at hashtags related to each club and then mapping the most popularly tweeted club in a 500m x 500m grid covering London. The smaller clubs tend to have a core support near the stadium itself, while the larger ones have a more dispersed popularity but still a core area of near-unanimous support, by the stadium itself. James Cheshire (Mapping London co-editor) then assembled this vivid graphic of the data.

I like the use of the grid squares here – it removes the distractions of both natural features (except the Thames) and political boundaries (except London’s own boundary) and lets the football colours do the talking, in a Jackson Pollock-esque way. The bright colours match the traditional colours of the teams – the central London area dominated by the reds vs the blues (Arsenal vs Chelsea), with Crystal Palace covering a large area of south London -but then they did have an interesting season…

We’ve featured a similar map of football supporters before, plus a map of the travelling locations of the clubs themselves.

Excerpted from the website for The Information Capital. The book itself is out on 30 October, buy a copy here.

Tube Tongues


I’ve extended my map of tube journeys and busy stations (previous article here) to add in an interesting metric from the 2011 census – that of the second most commonly spoken language (after English) that people who live nearby speak. To do this I’ve analysed all “output areas” which wholly or partly lie within 200m radius of the tube station centroid, and looked at the census aggregate data for the metric – which was a new one, added for the most recent census.

See the new map here.

Each tube station has a circle coloured by, after English, the language most spoken by locals. The area of the circle is proportional to the percentage that speak this language – so a circle where 10% of local people primarily speak French will be larger (and a different colour) than a circle where 5% of people primarily speak Spanish.

Language correlates well with some ethnicities (e.g. South Asian) but not others (e.g. West Indies), in London. So some familiar patterns appear – a popular, and uniform, second language appearing at almost all Tower Hamlets stations.

Click on each station name to see the other languages spoken locally – where at least 1% of local speakers registered them in the census. There is a minimum of 10 people to minimise small numbers for some tube stations in very commercial/industrial districts. In some very mono-linguistic areas of London (typically in Zone 6 and beyond the GLA limits) this means there are no significant second languages, so I’ve included just the second one and no more.

This measure reveals the most linguistically diverse tube station to be Turnpike Lane on the Piccadilly Line in north-east London, which has 16 languages spoken by more than 1% of the population there. By contrast, almost 98% of people living near Theydon Bois, on the Central Line, speak English as their primary language. Perhaps the most curious category is at Barbican, where 1.1% of people, or around 40, speak a “Northern European language (non EU)”.

One quirk is that speakers of Chinese languages normally appear as Chinese ao (all other) rather than Cantonese, whereas actually in practice, the Chinese community do mainly speak Cantonese (Yue) in London. This is likely a quirk of the way the question was asked and/or the aggregate data compiled. Chinese ao appears as a small percentage right across London due to the traditional desire for Chinese restaurant owners to disperse well to serve the whole capital.

The idea/methodology is similar to that used by Dr Cheshire for Lives on the Line. The metric was first highlighted by an interesting map, Second Languages, created by Neal Hudson. The map Twitter Tongues also gave me the idea of colour coding dots by language.

I’ve also included DLR, Overground, Tramlink, Cable Car and the forthcoming Crossrail stations on the map. Crossrail may not be coming until 2018 but it’s very much making its mark on London, with various large station excavations around the capital.


The TfL lines (underground, DLR etc), station locations and names all come from OpenStreetMap data. I’ve put the collated, tidyed and simplified data, that appears on the map, as GeoJSON files on GitHub GIST.

Visit the new oobrien.com Shop
High quality lithographic prints of London data, designed by Oliver O'Brien
Electric Tube
London North/South

Long-running citizen science and Flynn effect

If you have been reading the literature on citizen science, you must have noticed that many papers that describe citizen science start with an historical narrative, something along the lines of:

As Silvertown (2009) noted, until the late 19th century, science was mainly developed by people who had additional sources of employment that allowed them to spend time on data collection and analysis. Famously, Charles Darwin joined the Beagle voyage, not as a professional naturalist but as a companion to Captain FitzRoy[*]. Thus, in that era, almost all science was citizen science albeit mostly by affluent gentlemen and gentlewomen scientists[**]. While the first professional scientist is likely to be Robert Hooke, who was paid to work on scientific studies in the 17th century, the major growth in the professionalisation of scientists was mostly in the latter part of the 19th and throughout the 20th century.
Even with the rise of the professional scientist, the role of volunteers has not disappeared, especially in areas such as archaeology, where it is common for enthusiasts to join excavations, or in natural science and ecology, where they collect and send samples and observations to national repositories. These activities include the Christmas Bird Watch that has been ongoing since 1900 and the British Trust for Ornithology Survey, which has collected over 31 million records since its establishment in 1932 (Silvertown 2009). Astronomy is another area in which amateurs and volunteers have been on a par with professionals when observation of the night sky and the identification of galaxies, comets and asteroids are considered (BBC 2006). Finally, meteorological observations have also relied on volunteers since the early start of systematic measurements of temperature, precipitation or extreme weather events (WMO 2001). (Haklay 2013 emphasis added)

The general messages of this historical narrative are: first, citizen science is a legitimate part of scientific practice as it was always there, we just ignored it for 50+ years; second, that some citizen science is exactly as it was – continuous participation in ecological monitoring or astronomical observations, only that now we use smartphones or the Met Office WOW website and not pen, paper and postcards.

The second aspect of this argument is one that I was wondering about as I was writing a version of the historical narrative for a new report. This was done within a discussion on how the educational and technological transitions over the past century reshaped citizen science. I have argued that the demographic and educational transition in many parts of the world, and especially the rapid growth in the percentage and absolute numbers of people with higher education degrees who are potential participants is highly significant in explaining the popularity of citizen science. To demonstrate that this is a large scale and consistent change, I used the evidence of Flynn effect, which is the rapid increase in IQ test scores across the world during the 20th century.

However, while looking at the issue recently, I came across Jim Flynn TED talk ‘Why our IQ levels are higher than our grandparents (below). At 3:55, he raise a very interesting point, which also appears in his 2007 What is Intelligence? on pages 24-26. Inherently, Flynn argues that the use of cognitive skills have changed dramatically over the last century, from thinking that put connections to concrete relationship with everyday life as the main way of understanding the world, to one that emphasise scientific categories and abstractions. He use an example of a study from the early 20th Century, in which participants where asked about commonalities between fish and birds. He highlights that it was not the case that in the ‘pre-scientific’ worldview people didn’t know that both are animals, but more the case that this categorisation was not helpful to deal with concrete problems and therefore not common sense. Today, with scientific world view, categorisation such as ‘these are animals’ come first.

This point of view have implications to the way we interpret and understand the historical narrative. If correct, than the people who participate in William Whewell tide measurement work (see Caren Cooper blogpost about it), cannot be expected to think about contribution to science, but could systematically observed concrete events in their area. While Whewell view of participants as ‘subordinate labourers’ is still elitist and class based, it is somewhat understandable.  Moreover, when talking about projects that can show continuity over the 20th Century – such as Christmas Bird Count or phenology projects – we have to consider the option that an the worldview of the person that done that in 1910 was ‘how many birds there are in my area?’ while in 2010 the framing is ‘in order to understand the impact of climate change, we need to watch out for bird migration patterns’. Maybe we can explore in historical material to check for this change in framing? I hope that projects such as Constructing Scientific Communities which looks at citizen science in the 19th and 21th century will shed light on such differences.

[*] Later I found that this is not such a simple fact – see van Wyhe 2013 “My appointment received the sanction of the Admiralty”: Why Charles Darwin really was the naturalist on HMS Beagle

[**] And we shouldn’t forget that this was to the exclusion of people such as Mary Anning


London’s Incendiary House Prices


Above is a map from Mapping London co-editor Dr Cheshire’s new book The Information Capital that appeared in this week’s Time Out.

It dramatically shows how unaffordable large parts of London have become – areas where the median houseprice (i.e as many houses above this price locally as below it) is over £250,000 have completely burnt away. As the local level approaches that threshold, the colours get increasingly firey, suggesting that, if houseprices continue to rise, the burnt edge will continue to expand.

On a similar theme, Splittable uses similar colours to show where you are really going to have to share if you are looking to rent, and where you can live on your own – for £130/week budget, the yellow colours in the excerpt below show that there is only a small pocket in south-east London where such a place is unaffordable.

These two maps may be alarming to look at if you are setting to buy or rent, but remember they are just the median – there are plenty of places in “good” areas for a lot less than the values shown – you’ll probably have to compromise on something else though…


Geodemographics of Londoners


Today, a new version of the Greater London Authority (GLA)’s London Datastore launches, with an updated look, a new responsive data dashboard, and various new datasets being made available, including two key geodemographic datasets – that is, datasets which succinctly describe the population of an area.


One set, produced by Dr Alex Singleton at the University of Liverpool, is the London Output Area Classification (LOAC). LOAC looks purely at recent census area data for just London, using similarity clustering to put each of ~32000 small London areas into one of 8 groups (each then subdivided into 2-4 subgroups for further insight).

I’ve taken this dataset and produced the LOAC Map. An excerpt of part of the map for north London is above, but be sure to try the interactive version – a popup will describe the current area as you mouseover it. Buttons at the top allow you to map just a single group, to find out different areas with a similar population.

Whereabouts London

The Future Cities Catapult has also produced its own, separate cluster of GLA-area aggregated data both from the census and additional more novel open sources (e.g. greenspace survey and Flickr photo numbers), again producing an interactive map (excerpt below) of 8 different classifications. The project is called Whereabouts London. Here, clicking on an area will reveal a set of charts showing the typical characteristics of the grouping that the area is in. Whereabouts London is fully open source, with the code behind the clustering available on BitBucket.

Whereabouts London takes a pure-vector approach to showing the areas, with all areas that fit into each category highlighting when you mouse-over them. Similarly to LOAC, they have also used a vivid colour palette. The website is fully responsive, so should work well for checking out an area you are in, on your smartphone.


Ένας σκούφος καταγράφει τα συναισθήματά μας! – Ant1News

Ένας σκούφος καταγράφει τα συναισθήματά μας!
Μιλώντας στο «Έθνος» ο Πάνος Μαύρος, ο οποίος κάνει την έρευνα του στο Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis του University College London, τονίζει ότι «τις περισσότερες φορές αυτού του είδους οι μελέτες γίνονται στο εργαστήριο. Εμείς θέλουμε ...

and more »

Future Cities Will be Living, Reactive & Think for Themselves – RE.WORK Cities … – PR.com (press release)

Future Cities Will be Living, Reactive & Think for Themselves - RE.WORK Cities ...
PR.com (press release)
Andrew Hudson-Smith, Director of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London. Andrew's contribution to knowledge and outreach in the fields of the Internet of Things, smart cities, big data, digital geography, urban planning and ...

Με έναν… σκούφο καταγράφει τα συναισθήματά μας στην πόλη – Έθνος


Με έναν... σκούφο καταγράφει τα συναισθήματά μας στην πόλη
Μαύρος, ο οποίος κάνει την έρευνα του στο Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis του University College London, τονίζει ότι «τις περισσότερες φορές αυτού του είδους οι μελέτες γίνονται στο εργαστήριο. Εμείς θέλουμε να μελετήσουμε πώς αντιδρούν ...

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London: The Information Capital



London has been home to many great cartographers and has been the subject of many stunning maps that depict all aspects of life in the city.  Drawing inspiration from these and capitalising on the huge volumes of data now available, I have spent the past year working with designer Oliver Uberti to create a collection of maps and graphics entitled London: The Information Capital. We asked ourselves questions such as

Which borough of London is the happiest? 

Where are the city’s tweeting hot spots?  

How many animals does the fire brigade save each year? 

Which London residents have left their mark on history?

Where are London’s most haunted houses (and pubs)?

What makes London the information capital?

and sought to answer them through data visualisation. The book contains over 100 full-colour spreads alongside some brief essays to introduce each of the 5 broad themes – Where we are, Who we are, Where we go, How we’re doing and What we like.

Oliver Uberti and I worked closely with our publisher Particular Books (part of Penguin) to create a book that was a beautiful as it could be. Inside you’ll find some graphics with transparent overlays for before/ after comparisons, binding that minimises the impact of the centre fold and page dimensions tailored to the shape of London. All this showcases everything from watercolours of London’s protected vistas, 24 hours of shipping in the Thames Estuary and London’s data DNA. You can find out more here or pick up a copy on Amazon now or in all good bookshops from the 30th.

There are also a couple events taking place to mark the launch of the book. Find out more here.


‘Myths of Migration: The Changing British Population’ at the British Academy, London, on Monday 17 November 2014

An evening meeting organised jointly by the British Academy and BSPS on ‘Myths of Migration: The Changing British Population’, at the British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London, on Monday 17 November 2014 at 6.00-7.30pm.

As part of its celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the publication of The Changing Population of Britain (edited by Heather Joshi), the BSPS has teamed up with the British Academy for an evening meeting on UK migration. This will describe trends over time in both international and internal migration and discuss how these patterns are changing the size and composition of our national and local populations (click here for more information). The meeting is free of charge, but pre-registration is required and seats are allocated on a first come, first served basis. To register, please go to the following webpage: http://www.britac.ac.uk/events/2014/MythsofMigration.cfm

A BSPS day meeting on ‘usual residence’ and alternative population bases, at LSE on Friday 24th October 2014

A BSPS day meeting on ‘usual residence’ and alternative population bases, at London School of Economics on Friday 24th October 2014, 10.30am-5.00pm.
A reminder that this meeting on population bases for presenting census and related stats will take place at LSE on Friday 24 October, 10.30am-5pm. The programme for the day is now finalised. Register by emailing pic@lse.ac.uk or phoning the BSPS Secretariat on 020 7955 7666. There is no charge for this meeting and it is open to members and non-members.

A sense of new academic term

New academic term of UCL officially started on 22nd September 2014. Thousands of new students walk around the campus, and they fill Bloomsbury area with vibrant energy. Dr. Adam Dennett begun his GI Systems and Science class for new post-graduate students of CASA with welcoming slide on 1st October. In this year, CASA opened two new post-graduate courses: MSc SmartCities and Urban Analytics and MRes Smart Cities. Therefore, he has developed a lot of the course materials and structure for the students during last summer days.


On the same day, when CASA held SHOW AND TELL, which is a traditional CASA event to introduce each other, I apparently realised that the new term is just started! Most members of the lab came up and introduced themselves at this inaugural meeting.  


Emer Coleman’s seminar was followed on 7thOctober under the title of “Open Data and the City: Looking back and Looking Forward”. She explained open data as a way of engagement and empowerment and how citizen can be benefited and can participate in making better urban environment. Several good cases, such as Hello Bristol, were mentioned.

After the presentation, many questions were emerging from the audience. Transparency, security, effectiveness and so on. However, I was uncomfortable when she criticised, with some sentences from Adam Greenfield’s “Against the smart city”, big corporations that IBM and Cisco have been pushing smart city idea for money rather than people or better society. I could not catch the difference between the big brands, which get profit by providing new city systems and solutions, and her company, which get profit as well by providing efficient transport solution and application. There might be a matter of size.

These adventures would be enough to feel a sense of the new term. However, UCL email was unusually hacked on 9thOctober. All UCL students got 3000 emails (including me) with bello. It was a big issues not only in the campus but also in the UK as The Independentannounced. Steven Gray, a specialist of large datasets at CASA, analysed what has happened with his Big Data Toolkit and posted it on his blog.

#bellogate – A breakdown of the spam.

This morning (9th October 2014) was not like any other morning. Usually I wake up and check my nightly email while having my breakfast. This morning, however, I awoke to my work email account having just fewer than 3,000 unread emails waiting for me. During the night someone on the UCL Students email list had worked out how to send an email from the provosts email account to the all students mailing list saying the single word “bello”. What’s unclear was that this email appeared to come from the Provost’s alias and no-one knows if the account was hacked (which would signal a breech of an account) or just some student on campus who knew how to spoof the email headers.

No one knows exactly what has happened, and this is only speculation, but what I think has happened is that the general mailing list for all students has been setup incorrectly allowing anyone with the email address to send to any message to the student body. Until an official statement has been announced we won’t know for certain.

Naturally my first reaction was to start to read all of these emails and see what was being said between the students to get an understanding of how they were using service. We had emails from students who were saying “hello” or “bello” in some cases, many students responded to the mailing list saying “Please remove my name from the list”. My favourite of all these emails were the mailing lists that the mailing list alias (the One Direction Fan Club and the along with a poem about the event:

As of 9:30am the mailing list was closed down and an investigation is underway according to the @uclnews twitter account. @uclisd have done a great job keeping everyone notified even to the point of apologising to all the students via a text message to mitigate any concerns.

So what happens when you are researching ways to deal with unstructured textual data, have a toolkit, which collects data from various services and access to all the emails that were sent? Obviously you analyse the data! I quickly wrote some software to pull the data into the Big Data Toolkit and processed the data. I stripped out all identifying details such as email address and analysed only the date, time, subject heading and message body for information on what was being discussed. Below is a short breakdown of the data processed by my Big Data Toolkit.

The Data

2,968 emails were sent out during the spam attack. Assuming that there is 26,000 students at UCL (from 2012 stats) then the total load on the email servers was 71,168,000 messages sent over a period of 11 hours.

First Email Sent: Wed Oct 08 2014 22:48:25 GMT+0100 (BST)
Last Email Sent: 09/10/2014 09:45:41 GMT+0100 (BST)
Total Period: 10 hours 57 minutes
Total Size of all 2,968 emails: 85.61 Mb
Total Data storage for all students: 2.226 Tb
Emails which were Subscriptions (Mailing Lists): 1,254

Distribution of sent messages (every minute)

Textal of Subject Headers (view on textal.com)

Internet festival: gli esperti digitali pronti a guidarci nei nuovi scenari – Il Tirreno

Internet festival: gli esperti digitali pronti a guidarci nei nuovi scenari
Il Tirreno
Professore universitario in Galles, è presidente del Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis. ROBERTO BERNABÒ: Alla guida del Tirreno. Giornalista, direttore responsabile del quotidiano Il Tirreno. REMO BODEI: La filosofia e il mondo. Professore di ...

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Maps, apps and technology to make city life more fun – BBC News

BBC News

Maps, apps and technology to make city life more fun
BBC News
The helmet is the brainchild of PhD student Panos Mavros, from University College London's Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (Casa). "The idea is to use techniques from neuroscience and computer science to better understand how people ...
Headgear measures city stimulationBBC News

all 4 news articles »

British Empire Exhibition 1924


This colourful, much adorned map was produced as a fold-out poster on the back of the official guide for the British Empire Exhibition which took place in Wembley Park in 1924-5. The “Empire Stadium” that features on the map later become Wembley Stadium, famous for its twin towers, which survived until it was demolished and rebuilt in 2003.

The map was created by Kennedy North in 1923. It is very much in the style of MacDonald Gill, who produced “flowery” maps of London which were beautiful to look at, if time-consuming to plan journeys with – the simplicity of the famous Beck tube map was ten years away.

Of particular interest is the tube/rail map section, at it shows the Circle Line (or, at least, the two lines that formed it then) as a perfect circle. Indeed the whole map uses curves of varying radii to convey the network in a simpler way than the geographic reality. The style reminds me of the more recent curvy tube map by Maxwell Roberts and indeed my own Electric Tube map which also shows the circle line as a circle. In the British Empire Exhibition map, the northwestern part of the tube map is massively engorged, to show the layout of the exhibition itself, here switching to a geographical map, with the five nearest tube/railway stations highlighted as red blobs.

The tube line colours are somewhat different to the modern ones: Green is the Bakerloo and Northern Lines, Red shows the mainlines from Marylebone. The District and Piccadilly lines are Blue, and the Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan/Jubilee, West and East London Lines are Purple. Black is the Overground network.

bl_exhibition_scalesThe adornments on the map are most impressive in their number and content. For example, it mentions that there are 126 stations in “the London area” and that from 120 of these, it is possible to reach the Exhibition with changing trains. There is also a signed message from King Edward V, and a royal standard (including Newfoundland as a separate territory). The scale bar is curved and is adorned by Roman Britannia, learning down from her usual position and using a set of scales to measure the distance in feet. The key is called “The Explanation” and includes such detail as the Fire Station, Cinema and “Bermuda”. Various classic-looking cars and double-decker buses rush around the outside of the map. Giant fish swim down a river near Kilburn. The more you look, the more you discover! Back on the main tube map bit at the bottom, various now-closed stations are present – Broad Street, Victoria Park, Walham Green. A silhouette of Nelson’s Column acts as the centre of the network map, with a further relief of 1920s London behind.

Many of the buildings on the exhibition part of the map represent various countries that were part of the British Empire. The sizes vary hugely – the Australia building being the largest country-specific building. East Africa seems to get particularly short-changed, being a just small building between Nigeria and Malta.

It is perhaps worth comparing this historic map with the one for the most recent “world exhibition” that London hosted, namely the 2012 Olympic Games.

They don’t make maps like they used to!

View the map at the British Library online gallery. There is also a larger, zoomable version.

Reproduced here by kind permission of the British Library. © The British Library Board, Maps 3465.(16.)


Alan Reid: Prosecuting trolls is not a threat to freedom – Yorkshire Post

Alan Reid: Prosecuting trolls is not a threat to freedom
Yorkshire Post
Indeed, the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London has developed the “Tweet-O-Meter” to calculate the volume of Twitter traffic across the globe. The Tweet-O-Meter estimates that there are in excess of 1,200 tweets a minute ...

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Big Data + Travel in the Future


Found myself speaking at a massive extravaganza the 2014 Internet Festival in Pisa this coming Saturday 11th October amongst a fascinating line up. In a session with Laszlo Barabasi, Carlo Mol and Davy Jansenns, about how the physical meets the virtual when it comes to how we interact. Don’t know what I will say as yet but I’d better not give the same old stuff about complexity and cities so i need to liven it up with …. well I’ll post it when its done. Click here however  for the complete program

Following the “digital crumbs” each and every one of us leaves behind when we use digital devices, science can now measure our desires, life styles, social relationships and movements in society. This new social microscope provides us with the data to help us understand how the complex organism that is human society operates. This workshop will discuss the challenges and opportunities we will face in the near future, starting with the results of a CNR and University of Pisa European research project that predicts the arrival of the electric car and its impact. With international experts we will debate the challenges facing future means of transport. To conclude the event, we will present the results from the TagMyDay project.



London’s Sites of Medical Interest 1913


V0012883_webPublished in 1913 (and available to download from the Wellcome Library) this series of intriguing maps depict London’s “sites of medical interest”.  It looks like they have been marked on top of a Bacon & Co map of London and they provide a fascinating insight into the large numbers of medical museums and institutions that exist(ed) in the capital. I’d be interested to find out if these maps were available for purchase and who would be buying them – perhaps they were produced to encourage early medical tourism in London. The map above covers central London. But there are also maps for Paddington…V0012882_webKensington…


…and Victoria/ Vauxhall.


AAG 2015 CFP: OpenStreetMap Studies: Research Perspectives on a Decade of OSM

Call for papers: OpenStreetMap Studies: Research Perspectives on a Decade of OSM
Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
April 21-25, 2015
Chicago, Illinois

Alan McConchie, University of British Columbia
Muki Haklay, University College London

OSM Interface, 2006 (source: Nick Black)

OSM Interface, 2006 (source: Nick Black)

Since its founding in 2004, OpenStreetMap has grown into one of the pre-eminent open collaborative geographic knowledge projects online, growth that has been tracked closely by the emerging research domains of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) and the Geospatial Web. Due to OSM’s size (now boasting well over 1 million users), and its relative accessibility (open source code, public mailing lists, freely-downloadable data), OSM has been the preferred case study for many VGI researchers. This is in contrast to arguably more successful VGI projects, such as Google Map Maker, Waze, Facebook places and others, which are closed and researchers cannot access their data easily. Recently, however, there has been growing awareness that OSM and VGI are too often conflated, and that OSM should not be taken to stand in for all VGI. To this end, Muki Haklay suggested that the breadth and complexity of research into OSM may warrant a potential subfield “OpenStreetMap Studies”

Taking the 10th birthday of OSM as a starting point, this session will survey the state of geographical research on OpenStreetMap. This session seeks research demonstrating a variety of approaches, with particular interest in papers that investigate (1) how OSM has changed over the last 10 years, (2) how OSM research has also evolved over that time and how it compares to other crowdsourced systems, and (3) how OSM research differs from VGI research.

Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Comparisons between OSM and other open knowledge initiatives such as Wikipedia or other VGI projects like Google Map Maker.
  • Studies of data quality and completeness in OSM data, and consideration if these studies are possible in closed systems such as Google Map Maker or only possible with OSM.
  • OSM and its role in crisis mapping and disaster response and the role of other crowdsourced systems.
  • Novel applications of OSM data used in other fields, such as software algorithms, computer vision, traffic modeling, etc.
  • Social histories and social geographies of OSM and its community of contributors, and comparison to other, open or closed VGI projects.
  • Feminist and critical approaches to the societal impacts of OSM, the epistemological assumptions of its data structures, and the demographics of its community.
  • Political economic approaches to OSM, and open source software and open geodata more generally.

The session is supported by the European COST Energic (COST Action IC1203) network: European Network Exploring Research into Geospatial Information Crowdsourcing.

Please email abstracts of 250 words or less to Alan (alan.mcconchie@geog.ubc.ca) and Muki (m.haklay@ucl.ac.uk) before October 31st, 2015. All accepted papers will need to register for the AAG conference at AAG.org.

The Back to the Future Set at Secret Cinema


Biff’s House? Sycamore Street? Roy’s Records? This is a map of a place in London that existed during August and September 2014. It was the set design for Secret Cinema’s screenings of Back to the Future, which took place during the summer in part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, near Stratford in East London. The map came from the planning authority webpages, unfortunately the original is no longer online but you can click the image above for a larger version of the excerpt above.

Found on the London Legacy Development Authority webpages.


Conference Review: GIScience 2014


I was in Vienna for most of last week, presenting at a satellite workshop of the GIScience conference, before joining the main event for the latter part of the week.

GIScience is a biennial international academic conference, alternating between America and Europe. At the intersection between geography, GIS and information visualisation. It is very much academically focused, which contrasts strongly with FOSS4G (GIS technology), WhereCamp (GIS community) and the AGI (GIS business).

My highlights for this year’s conference were:

  • Jason Dykes (City) gave a keynote on balancing geovisualisation and information visualisation. As ever with presentations from City’s GICentre unit, the graphics were presented by way of various live demos and compellingly explained.
  • UCL Geography/CEGE had a strong presence of the conference and various of my colleagues gave presentations, a number focusing on using geolocated social media, both as a tool for research (e.g. population synthesis) and for research itself. There was also an unveiling of LOAC (UCL/Liverpool), a classification specially built for London, further details on this to follow soon as LOAC is signed off and rolled out.
  • Another UCL Geography presentation on comparing surname clustering and genotype clustering in the UK
  • A interesting presentation from TU Eindhoven on automatically creating and simplifying network diagrams using circular arcs.
  • Automatic Itinerary Reconstruction from Texts (LIUPPA/Pau) – showed how a fairly accurate map can be made simply by scanning prose, and otherwise unknown locations of places can be roughly determined by their textual relations to other, known places.

Many of the talks appear in an LNCS proceedings book.

Outside of the conference, much Wiener Schnitzel and Gelato was consumed, and historic old Vienna was explored. A highlight was conference drinks in the huge barrelled halls underneath the very grand city hall.


Visit the new oobrien.com Shop
High quality lithographic prints of London data, designed by Oliver O'Brien
Electric Tube
London North/South

London: The Information Capital


I am pleased announce that London: The Information Capital will be published on the 30th October. It is a book bursting with maps and graphics about the world’s greatest city and the result of a year of intense work with designer Oliver Uberti. Inspired by London’s design, mapping and visualisation pioneers (think Booth, Snow, Beck) we have sought to paint a contemporary portrait of the city through its abundance of open data. We asked ourselves questions such as

Which borough of London is the happiest? 

Where are the city’s tweeting hot spots?  

How many animals does the fire brigade save each year? 

Which London residents have left their mark on history?

Where are London’s most haunted houses (and pubs)?

What makes London the information capital?

and sought to answer them through data visualisation. The book contains over 100 full-colour spreads alongside some brief essays to introduce each of the 5 broad themes – Where we are, Who we are, Where we go, How we’re doing and What we like.

We worked closely with our publisher Particular Books (part of Penguin) to create a book that was a beautiful as it could be. Inside you’ll find some graphics with transparent overlays for before/ after comparisons, binding that minimises the impact of the centre fold and page dimensions tailored to the shape of London. All this showcases everything from water colours of London’s protected vistas, 24 hours of shipping in the Thames Estuary and London’s data DNA. You can find out more here or pick up a copy on Amazon.


Planning and the Great Fire



The Wellcome Image Library contains a number of interesting maps of London that are all free to use. I recently spotted a couple relating to the Great Fire of London. The map above is entitled “Map of London and Westminster before the Fire of London” and was created by P.S Walter and published in 1889. It shows the extent of London prior to the 1666 fire and remains recognisable to this day. If Christopher Wren, however, had been able to implement his plans for post-fire reconstruction of London the map above would not be at all familiar to present day Londoners. The map below, published in 1845 by John Haygarth, shows the “Wren plan” as dashed lines overlaid onto the Victorian street network for the City of London. M0003253_web

Who commutes the most and who has all the science jobs? See how your British … – The Independent

The Independent

Who commutes the most and who has all the science jobs? See how your British ...
The Independent
LuminoCity3D was launched last Monday by Duncan Smith, an urban geographer from the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis. It compares a number of indicators, such as the average education level of a city's inhabitants, how many people own a car, ...

Overheating London and the Evolving North: Visualising Urban Growth with LuminoCity3D.org

Urban policy is currently riding high on the UK political agenda. A combination of the desire to rebalance the UK economy away from financial services; debates over massive high-speed rail investment; the worsening housing crisis in the South-East; and city devolution demands following the Scottish referendum, all point to major reform. As we move towards the 2015 general election, addressing city concerns is going to be a key, perhaps even decisive, election debate.

It is therefore a good time to take stock of recent urban growth and change in Great Britain, assess policy successes and failures, and consider how better outcomes might be achieved in the coming decades. This post draws on map visualisations from the LuminoCity3D.org website.

London and the South-East: Global Boom Region to Elite Island?
London’s recent growth has been phenomenal, gaining over a million residents (+13%) between 2001 and 2011. As we can see in the figure below, population growth has occurred across all of Greater London (except Kensington & Chelsea), with the strongest concentrations in Inner London and East London, reflecting the priorities of successive London Plans. This spectacular growth has not been confined to Greater London either, but is found across the South East region. The fastest growing UK towns and cities are nearly all in London’s orbit, including Milton Keynes with 20% growth, Ipswich with 15% growth, Cambridge with 16% growth and Ashford with 21% growth. This shared growth clearly illustrates that the South East is a closely integrated region, as further demonstrated by extensive commuting flows.


Population Change 2001-2011 in the South East region.

Inevitably it is strong economic growth that underpins this rise in population. London gained 650,000 jobs (+15%) between 2001-2011, strongly focussed in Inner London and Canary Wharf. Employment growth is much more unevenly spread across the South East, and arguably booming Inner London is taking jobs away from other centres, or pressuring some into becoming dormitory suburbs through soaring demand for housing. This is most clearly seen in Outer London in centres such as Croydon and Bromley where employment has fallen, while resident population has risen.


Employment density change 2001-2011 in the South East region.

Inner London is dominant for many employment sectors, not just financial and business services, but also creative industries, research, tourism, and increasingly for information technology, helping London to bounce back successfully from the great recession. The IT industry is an important growth sector, and has traditionally been concentrated in Reading, Bracknell and surrounding towns, an area dubbed the Western Sector by Sir Peter Hall in the 1980s. The Western Sector still retains the highest percentage of IT jobs in GB, but recent growth here has been sluggish. The current stars of the IT industry are now online and social media businesses, and these are attracted to the creative pull of Inner London. Meanwhile the most significant South East growth story outside the M25 has switched north, with Oxford (12% jobs growth), Milton Keynes (14% jobs growth) and Cambridge (22% jobs growth) forming a new northern arc of science and engineering based growth.

So with so many success stories, you be forgiven for thinking everything looking rosy for London and the South East. Unfortunately this is not the case. Soaring population growth has in no way been matched by new housing construction. What was previously a housing affordability problem in the South East is now an outright crisis that threatens to put the brakes on the entire region. Mean house prices just passed the incredible figure of £500,000 in July of this year, and a recent survey placed London as the most expensive city in the world to live and work. This is a looming disaster for future growth prospects. The crisis is not limited to London either, as shown below, with median prices above £300k for much of the South East, and the most popular cities experiencing similar extremes to London.

LondonSE_HousePrices copy

House prices 2013 in the South East region.

Soaring prices may seem like great news for property owners, but ultimately cities rely on their ability to attract talent and new businesses. And as London’s competitiveness falls, growth will go elsewhere. What has traditionally been a region of opportunity risks becoming a closed-shop for the wealthy.

And the situation is in danger of getting worse before it gets better. The current UK government did not create the housing shortage, but have overseen a period of historically low house building, with 2014 rumoured to hit rock-bottom. Mapping new-built housing sales leaves a sea of white, largely because there have been so few new houses constructed to sell. The recession presented an ideal opportunity for investing in housing and addressing unemployment, but this opportunity was missed. Trumpeted planning reforms have achieved very little, while right-to-buy policies have simply further increased prices.

Solving the housing crisis requires reform on a number of fronts. More power for local authorities to borrow money and make compulsory land purchases would certainly help. Linked to this is a desperate need for property tax reform to encourage housing to be used efficiently. Currently a £300k house pays the same council tax as a £10 million house, while empty housing is not discouraged, leaving many houses in Inner London as empty or underused investment vehicles. Similar arguments are made in favour of a land value tax to encourage land to be used efficiently and stop land banking.

Perhaps the most controversial issue is whether the green-belt can be retained in its current form. Calls from the eminent Richard Rogers that all new development can still be on brownfield frankly look out of touch with the reality in the South East. The debate really needs to switch towards how a controlled release of green belt land can be managed to avoid car-based sprawl and develop sustainable urban areas. Mapping rail infrastructure and urban density in the South East as shown below indicates that there are many potential locations with rail stations and room for growth. This approach would only however create more commuter towns, and ultimately there needs to be stronger planning for the entire South East region, likely with big urban extensions for successful cities such as Milton Keynes, Cambridge and Brighton. It is interesting that recent entries for the Wolfson prize were focussed on this approach.


Rail infrastructure, the green belt and urban density in the South East region


Northern Evolution: an Emerging Hierarchy of Urban Centres?
While the South East is in danger of overheating, the majority of the UK’s city-regions have been focussed on post-industrial regeneration and stimulating growth. And in the last decade there has been significant change for many northern cities. Starting in the North West and Yorkshire we can see rising populations in all the major city centres. Greater Manchester in particular has experienced high levels of growth, gaining 200,000 residents (+8%) and 100,000 jobs (+10%) between 2001 and 2011. By the regional definitions used in LuminoCity3D.org, Greater Manchester has overtaken the West Midlands to become the second largest city-region in the country with 2.6 million residents. Manchester city centre has also experienced high rates of employment growth and is the primary centre in the North West, with positive signs in the business services and science & engineering sectors.

The Leeds and West Yorkshire region is also growing quickly, gaining 120,000 residents (+8%) and 50,000 jobs (+6.6%). Population growth is greatest in Leeds city centre, but is evident across the region, particularly in Bradford and Huddersfield. Similar to Manchester, employment growth is focussed strongly on the largest centre, Leeds, with a concentration in financial and business services. Despite West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester being two of the most dynamic northern regions, there is very little travel interactions between them due to poor transport links, and this surely needs to be a policy priority.

Sheffield also displays significant city centre led growth, gaining 45,000 (+6.3%) residents and 21,000 jobs (+6.7%), as does Liverpool although there has been some population decline in the suburbs. Liverpool’s figures are a gain of 21,000 residents (1.8%) and a more impressive 44,000 jobs (10%).


Population change 2001-2011 in the North West and West Yorkshire regions.


Employment density change 2001-2011 in the North West and West Yorkshire regions.

The house prices map for the north-west and Yorkshire makes a very interesting comparison to London. The dramatic gentrification that has transformed Inner London towards increasing affluence and polarisation has not (yet?) occurred. The wealthy areas are mainly suburban in the north-west, often where large cities merge with national parks such as the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. There are some signs that wealthier South Manchester is beginning to move towards the city-centre, but this is still in earlier stages of city-centre transformation.


House prices 2013 in the North West and Yorkshire regions.

Moving on to the Midlands, again we can see population growth across all major city centres. Birmingham and the West Midlands gained 162,000 residents (7.3%) and 47,000 jobs (+4.8%) between 2001 and 2011, with similar city centre employment density levels to Manchester. The most dynamic cities in the Midlands seem to be medium sized cites, with Leicester growing 12.8%, Nottingham by 8.1% and Derby by 11.8%, although jobs growth is more mixed. There is a significant concentration of business service jobs in Birmingham city centre, but by far the most distinctive sector in the Midlands economy is hi-tech manufacturing and R&D jobs linked to the automotive industry. Clusters around major factories can be seen in Solihull Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Telford, Warwick and Crewe, with manufactures including Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota. The distributed nature of employment contributes to considerable travel flows between neighbouring cities.


Population change 2001-2011 in the Midlands region


Employment density change 2001-2011 in the Midlands region.

Similar to the North West and Yorkshire, city centre housing markets are relatively inexpensive in the Midlands, with wealthier areas in the suburbs, particularly between Birmingham, Coventry and Warwick/Leamington Spa. There are signs that wealthier groups to the south of Birmingham are moving further into the city centre.


House prices 2013 in the Midlands region.

Will Growth Transfer from the South East to the North?
With the South East struggling to accommodate growth and northern regions trying to attract more growth, the answer seems obvious- transfer growth to the north. Unfortunately urban economics is seldom that straightforward. London is a global leader in a range of service sectors, and it does not automatically follow that existing firms and new firms would choose northern cities over the South East. There are however many encouraging signs in cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham with growth in a range of knowledge-economy sectors. The gap with the South East still remains extensive, and this essentially is the crux of the debates about city devolution and infrastructure investment: whether or not these policies can enable northern cities to bridge this gap. London currently has great advantages in terms of public money invested in infrastructure like public transport, and also in terms of political power to plan and manage growth through the Mayor and Greater London Authority. The argument in favour of empowering northern cities looks increasingly convincing, and we shall see in the coming months whether politicians are brave enough to instigate this process.



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