153 - A Subway Map of Web Trends 2.0
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Intangible and invisible, but omnipresent: that combination of qualities used to describe only God (or the sense of dread left by His absence). Now it also applies to cyberspace. Any attempt to map the internet is bound to fall frustratingly short of its true complexity, or to be so complex as to be illegible.
This map, suggested to me by Jezza Robinson, strikes a good balance between the web’s tentacularity and its interconnectedness, by cleverly using the conceit of a subway map. The map is a modification of this Tokyo subway map.
This is actually the second such map produced by Information Architects (here; their Web Trend Map 1.0 is here). As they themselves define it, this map shows “the 200 most successful websites on the web, ordered by category, proximity, success, popularity and perspective.”
The map shows 15 distinct lines, organising the top websites into categories sucs as News, Sharing, Main Sites, Music, Political Blogs, Chinese Line, etc. Obviously, there is overlap. That’s where the Junctions come in: YouTube, for example, is on the Main Sites line, but also on the Movies and Knowhow lines. WordPress sits astride the Social News, Design and Technology lines.
An interesting innovation is a 6 month weather forecast for some of the stations (as the weather’s generally rather stable in a genuine subway), indicating their chances in an ever changing cyberspace. Google’s future is ‘unreal’, Xing’s is ‘insecure’, the Washington Post’s is ‘changing’, MSN is headed for ‘storm’. Whether the wheather may be wet or fine, is tied in with their being web sites of generation 1.0 or 2.0. A few stations are classified more specifically as 0.5, 1.5, 2.5.
For insiders, i.e. people familiar with the original Tokyo subway map, there are some jokes about the exact locations of some of these stations: YouTube hase moved into Shibuya station, “a humming place for young people”, pushing Google to Shinjuku, “a suspicious, messy, Yakuza-controlled (station), but still a pretty cool place to hang out.”
“If you’re a geek like us, you might just want to download the A3-PDF, print it out and hang it on the wall. So you can stare at it all day long.” Which is exactly what strange maps are there for, but… Information Architects also provides a clickable online map one can use as “a starting point on your daily data hunt.” Which is rather cool. An updated map is due for December 2007.
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