Cabspotting: San Francisco cab tracker reveals the life of the city

by Stephanie Chasteen on March 14, 2009

A recent post over at Working Knowledge (Measuring the Intangible) about how Barcelona plotted Flickr photos on a map of Spain to reveal favorite tourist locations reminded me about a really neat site at the Exploratorium.  This is a great example of enhanced mapping – taking some interesting available public data to find out someone more about an area.  There was a wonderful project at the Exploratorium called “Cabspotting” – – that traced the routes that taxis took throughout San Francisco.

Cabspotting traces San Francisco’s taxi cabs as they travel throughout the Bay Area. The patterns traced by each cab create a living and always-changing map of city life. This map hints at economic, social, and cultural trends that are otherwise invisible. The Exploratorium has invited artists and researchers to use this information to reveal these “Invisible Dynamics.”

Check it out, it’s really interesting (especially if you’re familiar with the city).  Or to quote a friend who quoted Lincoln, “For the kind of people who like that sort of thing, it’s the sort of thing they like.”

Here’s the image of the city when I wrote this post:

Interestingly, the cab in the top left (which has a empty circle showing it has no passenger) is almost out to the Exploratorium.  It then turned left, seemed to be out near Lucas Films.

This reminds me of the World at Night photos, where the very fact of where there is light outlines the major cities and the continents.

{ 1 comment }

Andrea Meyer March 16, 2009 at 8:59 pm

How exciting that the Exploratorium is making this data available to everyone. The visual interface and ability to interact with the data means that anyone can participate in sensemaking and finding new patterns. Imagination + tools + data = lots of new insights possible!

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