Social Mapping November 29, 2005Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
Mapping is not just for cartographers any longer. Social scientists are getting in on mapping using some unique online tools. One of my favorites because of its potential is www.commoncensus.org. This site asks each visitor, almost 30,000 since September, to tell where they think the main “sphere of influence” is in their area. For example, I live in Tucson, Arizona and I see the city of Tucson as the most influential city in my life. I read Tucson news, hear Tucson gossip, focus on Tucson issues, and relate state issues to Tucson. It would likely be similar were I living in Phoenix. My sphere of influence would be everything Phoenix.
However, roughly between Phoenix and Tucson is a town called Casa Grande. Where would residents of that town see their sphere of influence? And what of the many rural areas of the state? By which major city would those residents say they were most influenced? Good question. Check out the map CommonCensus has generated thus far. Please follow the link to their site for a view of the map with magnification.
Where this is intriguing to me is that this map is based on perceptions of boundaries not determined boundaries. I would like next to see illustrations and visualizations of complex interrelationships that exist in offices, in local politics, in schools, and in families. Let’s take schools, for example. It would be intriguing to see how people perceive their own collection of associates and friends mapped against, say, Departmental organization. It may turn out the rumors that they Principal doles out extra favors to the Math Department because of a larger number of perceived friendships. A superintendent, seeking favor for a particular issue, might well be advised to consult such a social mapping to determine how to best frame the message or direct a communication.