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Accidental Geo-Maps

By Brian | April 28, 2009 | Share on Facebook

This is very cool (from Newscientist via Speculist):

Billions of photos have now been uploaded to the internet, and many are tagged with text descriptions. Some are even geotagged – stamped with the latitude and longitude coordinates at which the image was taken. David Crandall and colleagues at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, analysed the data attached to 35 million photographs uploaded to the Flickr website to create accurate global and city maps and identify popular snapping sites.

David Crandall’s Cornell homepage is here, and his whitepaper on the subject is here.

This is one of those studies that, while important for its groundbreaking methods and potential practical applications, also produces some fascinating top-level results for us to marvel at. For instance, the image on the right is a map of Manhattan island, drawn entirely by plotting the geo-location of 1.2 million photographs taken by almost 36,000 people (the map to it’s right is the same thing with the streets drawn in for context). Also, here’s a list of the Top 20 Most Photographed Cities in the World (by number of photographers):

135,8601,204,137New York, NY
229,1521,122,476London, England
325,6941,115,870San Francisco, CA
418,940586,203Paris, France
517,729775,061Los Angeles, CA
612,025515,884Chicago, IL
711,834571,698Washington, DC
811,346535,671Seattle, WA
99,839243,726Rome, Italy
109,607280,549Amsterdam, Holland
119,318402,658Boston, MA
129,229258,926Barcelona, Spain
139,132304,720San Diego, CA
148,369236,818Berlin, Germany
157,652206,670Las Vegas, NV
167,438112,204Florence, Italy
206,586164,454Madrid, Spain

Finally, here’s a list of the Top 7 Landmarks in each of the Top 20 Cities (and globally):

LocationLM #1LM #2LM #3LM #4LM #5LM #6LM #7
All CitiesEiffel TowerTrafalgar SquareTate ModernBig BenNotre DameLondon EyeEmpire State Building
New York, NYEmpire State BuildingTimes SquareRocke- feller CenterGrand Central StationApple StoreColumbus CircleLiberty Island
London, EnglandTrafalgar SquareTate ModernBig BenLondon EyePicca- dilly CircusBucking- hamTower Bridge
San Francisco, CACoit TowerPier 39Union SquareFerry BuildingPrisonLombard StreetSan Francisco
Paris, FranceEiffel TowerNotre DameLouvreSacre- coeurArc de TriompheCentre PompidouTrocadero
Los Angeles, CADisneylandHolly- woodGetty MuseumFrank GehrySanta Monica PierGriffith Observa- toryCalifornia Adventure
Chicago, ILCloud GateChicago RiverHancock TowerSears TowerArt InstituteWrigley FieldBucking- ham Fountain
Washington, DCWash’n MonumentWWIILincoln MemorialCapitolJefferson MemorialMuseumWhite House
Seattle, WASpace NeedleMarketSeattle Public LibraryGas- works ParkKerry ParkDowntownFountain
Rome, ItalyColosseumVaticanoPantheonFontana di TreviBasilicaSpanish StepsVittoriano
Amsterdam, HollandDamWester- kerkNieuw- marktAmster- damMuseum PleinEuropeEurope
Boston, MAFenway ParkTrinity ChurchFaneuil HallPublic GardenUSANew England Aqua- riumHarvard Yard
Barcelona, SpainSagrada FamiliaParcguellBoqueriaCathedralCasamilàSpainCasabatlló
San Diego, CABalboa ParkSan Diego ZooUSS MidwaySealsSan Diego PadresStar of IndiaComic con
Berlin, GermanyBranden- burgertorReichstagPotsdam- erplatzBerlin- erdomTV TowerGedächt- niskircheCheck- point Charlie
Las Vegas, NVParisNew York, New YorkBellagioVenetianCasinoFlamingoLuxor
Florence, ItalyPonte VecchioDuomoPiazza del CampoFirenzeSanta CroceBridgeRiver
Madrid, SpainPlaza MayorPuerta del SolCibelesCathedralCallaoMetropolisParque del Retiro

So the most photographed landmark in the world is the Eiffel Tower. Four of the top seven are in England, one other is in France (Notre Dame) and the Empire State Building is the only one in the United States (despite New York being the most photographed city).

Within New York, it’s interesting to note that the Apple Store is the fifth most popular landmark, which says something about the (not so) random sample you get when your source population is Flickr users. That said, it’s still a fascinating list to review (at least to me).

Topics: Random Acts of Blogging | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Accidental Geo-Maps”

  1. Ilya says at April 29th, 2009 at 4:54 am :
    I take most pride in the fact that I’ve been to or gazed at every single top non-US sight on this list. With the exception of Seattle (never been to yet), Boston and San Diego (very brief visits to either), I am familiar with practically every single landmark on this list. I feel positively fulfilled.

  2. Ilya says at April 29th, 2009 at 4:55 am :
    Wair, come to think of it, my Flickr stream contributed to quite a number of these…

  3. Brian says at April 29th, 2009 at 7:53 am :
    Well, now you see that your travels (and your hard work documenting them) has had a positive effect around the world (well, at least at Cornell, but I’m sure these guys will come up with some way to sell this to Fodor’s or the like – at least…)

    Just don’t plan a vacation to the New York Apple Store, ‘kay?


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