Fashionable excuses

Posted December 31st, 2015 by Nate Wessel

Well, damn, huh? I moved to a city with a fashion district, and my last five posts have been about maps, stuff I could be working on literally anywhere.

The first few months in Toronto have seemed to see me divorced from my physical, tangible work; I’ve sewn a few things, sure, but nothing interesting, nothing that engaged my mind as much as my hands. I was trying to figure this out over the winter break and came to a few conclusions:

  1. I’ve been busy. Let’s just get that out of the way, though it isn’t the interesting answer or the most truthful one.
  2. My new apartment is too clean and new; I can’t tack shit up all over the place for inspiration. I’m currently working on making a mess of it.
  3. I don’t know anyone here beyond a few people, so what’s it matter what I look like? Part of the fun for me may have been just in making myself uncomfortable around people I know, rebelling against any personal identity as it began to form in anyone’s mind. Or in my own?
  4. I’m no longer surrounded by artists capable of understanding form. Academics, every day!
  5. Or, to elaborate on #3 further: am I saying that I have to feel known to be seen? Or that communication is properly dialectic rather than expressive? Does that sound like vapid nonsense? Will anyone who finds themselves outside of my head understand what I meant by that? I mean that without a shared context of formal expectation, a shared expectation of what certain things usually look like, there is little message content to a violation of the non-expectation. This is related to entropy and information theory, which makes me suspect my own thoughts. Just because I happen to be reading a book on that topic right now, doesn’t make it relevant!

So… I really need to get on top of making something! I have well over a thousand dollars worth of fabrics and materials just lying in piles, and more than a dozen stores within walking distance if I found myself missing anything at all.

What’s on the block?

Well, I should stop making lists that no one will read now. With hope, publishing this on new years eve will help to cement these little plans in my mind and perhaps with luck some of them will make the transition into jpg and then into your own mind.


Upcoming presentation at AAG 2016

Posted December 13th, 2015 by Nate Wessel

From the abstract of my upcoming presentation at AAG 2016 in San Francisco:

Mapping dead-ends: how and where to consider noise reduction

Algorithmic detection of dead-ends and indirect streets could help cartographers create more legible transportation maps. In this presentation, we briefly cover algorithmic techniques for dead-end detection, borrowing many ideas from graph theory. We then apply these techniques to a sample of regions, using OpenStreetMap data, to discover the spatial variability in potential for geometry simplification, particularly as modes vary between car, foot, and bike. In what sort of regions and for which modes should we consider reducing the visual noise introduced by dead-ends and highly indirect streets?

This is something I’ve been toying with since the Cincinnati bike map last year, where I implemented Tarjan’s Algorithm to detect and diminish simple dead-ends.

Cincinnati bike map

The effect on clarity, at least for me, was remarkable and totally novel. At least until Minh pointed out that Google Maps has been doing something similar for at least a couple years (fuck!). Well, in any case, they haven’t done it all that well, and I still haven’t seen it on any other maps that I’m aware of doing it. The point of this paper/presentation will be to explore other possibilities for dead-end detection, a bit past what can be done with Tarjan’s very useful Algorithm, and to think about some ways that such dead-ends could be visualized and what difference any of this makes anyway, particularly as we consider which mode a map (explicitly or implicitly) is designed for.

So, I know no one reads this, but if anyone finds themselves in SF this March/April, I hope you’ll drop by and make my world feel slightly smaller!


Rethinking the Urban Bike Map

Posted November 12th, 2015 by Nate Wessel

Just sharing a recently accepted paper over at Cartographic Perspectives… check it out!

It’s my first ‘pub’, so…

*highfive accepted*

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Coming back to life

Posted September 28th, 2015 by Nate Wessel

This poor blog, so long reduced to second best by my Cincinnati Transit Blog, finds itself, now, I hope, rising in status, now that I’ve left that poor city and it’s desperate transit for the larger pastures of the grand and chilly Chicago North: Toronto!

Ah, Canada. Ah, academia. The one gives me plastic money issued by the other with which to rent my shiny new basement apartment from whence I commute to my dingy old basement office. There’s lots of exciting and interesting things to be blogged yet, and having learnt my lesson about blog-localization, I’ll try henceforth to keep things of general interest, while being stirred to write, surely, by both colder weather, better transit, and the lack of superb regional cartography.

To a blog reborn!

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Posted May 24th, 2015 by Nate Wessel

A sign of my slow progress: seven posts and two years ago, I told you ethereal readers that I had started grad school–a master’s in geography.

Now I write to brag further: come this fall, I’ll be starting a PhD in urban planning at the University of Toronto. That last word is the most important for me, “Toronto”, as it brings with it a change of place, of weather and of friends. Academia and planning are by now familiar to me, but Canada is not, not yet, nor a city so large as this one with such intimacy as can be implied by a four-year forecasted residence.

Eagerly I await my brief span of life within a city of fashion, wealth, and I dare to dream boldly: foresight and moderation in civic affairs.

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“Who decides what goes on the map?”

Posted April 4th, 2015 by Nate Wessel

There has always been a lot of discussion in the cartography world about the “authority” of maps. Many people, perhaps because of their long history of state production, take maps as authoritative objects, depicting a ‘non-subjective’ reality, presumably using some well-defined and long-established criteria for definition, identification, inclusion and depiction. These maps almost never identify a human but rather an institutional author if any. The obviously contestable and ephemeral content of these maps though so often belies their authority; state boundaries, so often fortified with the boldest of all lines consist in nothing but the prosaic ink of a page in a musty town hall.

As a natural reaction in a democratic world, a whole wave of cartographic effort has sought to wash the authority of state maps and even the associated authority of cartographic styles themselves associated with state efforts at definition. Maps with obviously biased content appear in the usual styles, and unusual, sloppy, styles are applied to the stagnant and reified artifacts of state production.

The question of “who made this map” becomes important when authority is implied toward contested domains. “Authority”: an interesting double meaning. Authorship seems to imply lack of authority and authority means the faceless view from omniscience: unauthoredness. Who makes the maps?

I do!

To the author, a book must appear a transient tissue of compromised satisfactions, the thoughts of a moment, subject to revision and effacement, historically to almost certain erasure. To the sculpter, a stone must be something softer than to others. To a master of any craft, the product is always contestable. What is a law to a politician? A wall to a mason may always bear the possibility for transgression.

It is not for cartographers to democratize ‘the map’, nor for artists to spread oil paints to the masses of clumsy fingers now supposedly bereft of them. We must rather hope that ‘the people’ will claim each their own domain of expertise, and from there extrapolate to ours.

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