Just to follow up on Mary Catherine’s post about finding data, I wanted to recap the final session of this workshop series that took place tonight.
The library guide on mapping data (by Margaret Smith) can be found here: http://libguides.gc.cuny.edu/mappingdata
As in the other two workshops, Smith emphasized thinking about who would be keeping this data and why as a part of the critical research process. It’s especially interesting given the size of these data sets and maps, meaning that the person (or corporate entity, NGO, or government agency) likely has a very specific reason for hosting this information.
She brought us through a few examples from basic mapping sites, like the NYT’s “Mapping America” which pulls on 2005-2009 Census Bureau data, to basic mapping applications like Social Explorer (the free edition has limited access, but the GC has bought full access) and the USGS and NASA mapping applications. The guide also includes a few more advanced mapping options, like ArcGIS, but the tool that seemed most useful to me, in the short-term anyway, is Google’s Fusion Tables, which allows you to merge data sets that have terms in common. The example Smith used was a data set of demographic data (her example was percentage of minority students) organized by town name (her example was towns in Connecticut) and a second set of data that defined geographic boundaries by the same set of towns. Fusion Tables then lets you map the demographic data and select various ways to visualize and customize your results.
My main takeaway from this series was that each of these tools is highly particular and unique, and you have to really dig into playing with the individual system before you’ll even know if it is the right tool for your work.
That, and also learn R.