Saturday, 12 July 2014

Maps, workshops and research

By Antonio Gonzalez

Yesterday I attended the awesome workshop led and organised by Fiona Tweedie and Steve Bennett from Research Bazaar and the ITS Research Services at The University of Melbourne (follow them here and here). Me and other researchers were asked to be at 10 am in the Old Arts Building, where we learned about CartoDB, an amazing software designed to make your own map. And I can only say this: the possibilities provided for researchers are endless! Although I had no experience with CartoDB, I do have some experience using TileMill, a similar software that allows people to create their own maps, using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This is the language that programmers use to create everything that is related to presentation.

In two hours we learned the basics and using a map made by the lovely Fiona, we set out to make the ugliest map we could ever have made. Little by little we learned how to change the style of the geodata that Steve provides us with and many other features like adding and deleting rows and columns to our table. I must say that it is one of the easiest software I have ever used and compared with TileMill, I think that advantages are obvious. Having said that, comparing TileMill to CartoDB is an exercise I won’t do here. They’re both great digital tools for researchers who cannot find reliable maps and/or prefer to create their own map. As an example, let me show you the map I created. And not only that, I have already submitted a paper and a book chapter with this map. Have a look!

© Antonio Gonzalez

I created the map a year ago with the help of Steve in a three-day workshop I organised at The University of Melbourne with ITS Research to teach researchers understand the basics of TileMill, so they could create their own maps. Of all the maps of the Dampier Archipelago I came across during my PhD, I could use few of them due to copyright and permission issues. After years of frustration without success, I decided to use TileMill and I created this beautiful map of the Dampier Archipelago. Ok, I admit, it is not the best map ever and it still lacks some important details (like scale). However, by using my own map I can easily adapt it and use it in different contexts (lectures, presentations, etc…), without having to rely on the holder of the copyright.

Ok. I think that is enough about maps.

The next workshop that Steve is doing at The University of Melbourne is already raising a lot of expectations. Have a look yourself!