CartoDB - Maps for the web made easy

May 27, 2015

Where & When

Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre - Room 206. Wednesday 27th May from 1:30 - 3pm.

Arna Karick

Arna is Swinburne’s e-Research Consultant, the organiser of Swinburne Hacker Within, and an astronomer by trade. Twitter: @drarnakarick

##About CartoDB

This week’s SHW topic is CartoDB mapping for researchers. CartoDB is essentially a map building web application. You can create unlimited public maps for free. It’s very easy to start once you activate your account. You just need to be able to manipulate spreadsheets and have a basic understanding of geocoding. CartoDB allows you to put your data on top of rich base layers. Use Mapbox or any other basemap provider. You can even create maps without a background. CartoDB integrates with all major mapping and visualization engines through its mapping library, CartoDB.js. Check out the CartoDB Map Gallery for ideas. You can also fork the CartoDB Javascript library from GitHub to create your own maps from scratch.

Example: This interactive map of optical and radio telescopes around the world took an afternoon to set up. It’s still a work in progress. update it whenever I need to take a mental break from work. Most of the data was taken from, dare I say it, Wikipedia. You can read my original blog post here. The map is interactive in the sense that you can zoom in, move around, hover and click on telescopes and click on links that take you to external observatory websites. The visualisation is public as is the underlying CartoDB data table which can be downloaded in various formats.

Guided Tutorials

CartoDB now provides some additional resources and account options for the academic community and they now have courses online at CartoDB Academy. For a guided tutorial on CartoDB basics check out the Online Mapping for Beginners course. There is a lot more documentation on their website now, including a whole stack of tutorials on the various things you can do within the CartoDB environment. It’s definitely grown a lot over the past 12 months, more than I realised.

Robin Wright from the Copyright office will also be popping in to discuss issues about open access data and options such as Creative Commons for making visualisations available online. Participants are welcome to join in this informal discussion.

What we talked about

After a short overview of CartoDB and why you might want to use it, we launched into a discussion about data visualisation and copyright. We spent a fair bit of time talking about the underlying Open Street Map data - originally CartoDB used Google Maps data - and copyright in this context. Robin talked about copyright law in Australia, specifically about some notable cases that have been brought before the courts. Copyright in the context of data and visualisations is different in the US, UK and Australia, and legislation in all countries is very much behind the growing tech industry. Chris Fluke also showed us The Astronomical Tourist which he created years ago (pre-CartoDB) as part of his Astronomy Outreach work. The website is designed to educate the masses about the History of Astronomy. If you take a close look at sights in Egypt (pyramids) or England (Stonehenge) you can overlay the path of sun at the summer and winter solstice - nice. Chris leads the Scienctific Computing and Visualisation Group within the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

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