Mental map of London

Fab pointed me to this interesting post of the Yahoo! Research Berkeley blog. The author played a bit with the most frequent tags that are used to annotate the Flickr pictures taken in London. The tag cloud elaborated with these is then mashed-up with the map of London with the aim of building an analogue of Stanley Migram’s Psychological Map of Paris.

In 1976, social psychologist Stanley Milgram asked his subjects to list places of interest in Paris. Milgram then aggregated the results, effectively creating an “attraction map” of Paris with landmark names appearing in a larger font according to the number of subjects who mentioned each.

By taking a photo, photographers essentially express their interest in a particular place. Individual pictures taken at a specific location act as “votes” in favor of that location’s interest, much like the explicit input of Milgram’s subjects. Further, additional information can be extracted from the tags attached to these photos on Flickr. Tags that frequently appear in images from a specific location but are otherwise rare suggest a topic unique to the location.

I found this approach extremely interesting. We can learn so many things from these social platforms like Flickr or, etc. We are just exploring the tip of the iceberg. For instance, I remember another post by Fabien on heatmaps on Google Maps. In the example the authors provided an heatmap of the traffic congestion. The same technique can be used for instance to see which tiles are downloaded more frequently from GMaps or Microsoft Live. These information can have a tremendous value for Urban Planners, but I still have to find a good example of how such information has been set into practice and solution.

The point is that in most of the cases, companies like Google or Microsoft or Yahoo do not allow outsiders to play with their database even for research purposes. Crossing the data from two different services belonging to two different companies is just not possible.

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