Future Of Real-Time: Context Cartography

Future Of Real-Time: Context Cartography

Through the union of data and location, multiple layers of real-time information can be displayed geographically, providing enhanced situational context.

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 2 february 2011

Through the union of data and location, multiple layers of real-time information can be displayed geographically, providing enhanced situational context for ground crews and policy makers alike. Highly specific types of information can be especially useful on a large scale to help facilitate decision- making processes at the level of businesses, institutions and governments.


  • Information gives decision makers at an institutional level quick and accurate information.
  • Rapidly changing/evolving strategies can be geographically mapped and used to influence approachest to a response.
  • The union of data with place helps ensure that resources are being distributed equitably across a region and that they’re tracked while en route to a destination.
  • By understanding where an event or situation originated, response organizations are better equipped to manage or prevent similar events from occuring in the future.
  • Mapping the scale of distant events alongside familar environments promotes greater understanding through local context.
  • Knowing what is happening at any given time becomes more meaningful when this information is also linked to place.

Supporting Examples for Context Cartography

Global Health Based On Local Information
HealthMap brings together disparate data sources to achieve a unified and comprehensive view of the current global state of infectious diseases and their effect on human and animal health. The website integrates outbreak data of varying reliability, ranging from news sources to curated personal accounts to validated official alerts. Through an automated text processing system, the data is aggregated by disease and displayed by location for user-friendly access to the original alert.

Creative Data Overlays On Interactive Maps
Polymaps is an open-source JavaScript library of controls that simplifies and standardizes the creation of interactive online maps. Created as a collaboration between Stamen Design and SimpleGeo, the goal of the project is to better support complex, large-scale data overlays. Polymaps can load data at a full range of scales, so it is ideal for showing information starting from a country level, and descending to states, cities, neighborhoods, and individual streets.

Visualizing Complex Social And Political Data
The Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University specializes in visualizing complex political and social data, such as incarceration rates and financial expenditures, to help re-envision the relationship between architecture, criminal justice, and community investment. The lab works with data about space— numeric data combined with narratives and images to design compelling visual presentations that link social data with geography. This helps researchers and advocates communi- cate information clearly, responsibly, and provocatively. By reorganizing data using visualization techniques, and locating it geographically, they attempt to correlate disparate items of information and open new spaces for action and options for intervention.

Shared Visual Experience For Disaster Response Teams
San Diego State University’s Immersive Visualization Center (Viz Lab) is a Navy-sponsored organization that produces geographic renderings for first responders around the globe. Using imagery collected by defense agencies and other types of government organizations, the Viz Lab is able to generate interactive maps depicting damaged locations, hospitals, refugee camps and other data rarely available to responders. These 3-D representations give command center employees more accurate and detail-rich images than 2-D maps afford, providing responders with an increased level of situ- ational awareness.

Putting Social Enterprise On The Map
iuMap is an online directory that interfaces with Google Maps. Culling together organizations as diverse as health, education, fair trade crafts, and water, the map’s goal is to centralize and codify the functions of these organizations in one, concrete hub. The map was created as a response to the lack of central- ized information, a place where one could find easily digestible and critical information to help the social enterprise com- munity learn from successes, failures and challenges, so that decisions can be made more easily, quickly, and cheaply.

Maps Created Around Major Events
Dimensions is an experimental prototype for the BBC that is designed to provide a human scale to events and places in history in terms that any person can understand and experi- ence. This is accomplished by overlaying the size of historical events, locations and objects onto satellite views of a person’s city or neighborhood Some of these “Dimensions” can be physically experienced as short, size-accurate walks, that allow individuals to get a first- hand point of view and appreciation of the distances involved.


Add your thoughts and ideas on Twitter and other social media networks using #ContextCartography

Watch the PSFK team present the report in New York in February on Feb 10 at Open UN – Engagement in the age of real-time and on Feb 18 at PSFK SALON at Soho House NY.

For your free download of this report please visit


Japanese Face Wash Creates A Perfect Rose Every Time

Arts & Culture
Mobile august 26, 2016

Get A Better Idea Of How You Are Wasting Your Time

The TouchTime app is trying to revolutionize personal task management by providing detailed insight on how to be more efficient

Culture august 26, 2016

London Telephone Box Repurposed As A Tiny Mobile Repair Shop

Tools and supplies to replace broken screens or damage are neatly stowed away in these micro-workrooms


Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Retail: Technology Primer

See All
Design august 26, 2016

Conceptual Sportswear Created Out Of Futuristic Condom Material

A Dutch fashion designer is experimenting with new methods and fabrics to make high performance clothing

Fashion august 26, 2016

Fashionable Tassel Will Ensure You Never Lose Your Valuables Again

The device is fashion meets connected tech, that will help you keep track of your belongings at all times


Jeffrey Cruttenden

Investing, Security, Design

Syndicated august 26, 2016

Would You Wear Wool Shoes To Save The Environment?

As demand for wool shoes grows, a number of US footwear brands are heading directly to the source: the sheep pastures of New Zealand

Sustainability august 26, 2016

Self-Healing Material Is Fashioned Out Of Squid Teeth

Penn State researchers have devised a new textile that uses organic proteins

Arts & Culture august 26, 2016

Search Engine Turns Your Own Drawings Into Photos

This image-matching software accepts hand-made sketches instead of keywords


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

PSFK Op-Ed august 23, 2016

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs august 25, 2016

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Our Future of Work vision is a service that allows companies to assemble and deliver welcome packets that are uniquely focused on the concept of growth

Arts & Culture august 26, 2016

Illustrator Interprets The Experiences Of Blind Travelers

Artist Alby Letoy creates drawings of poignant travel memories for the visually impaired

Advertising august 26, 2016

Clickbait Titles Used For The Good Of Charity

An agency devised an unlikely campaign that uses clickbait as a positive force to drive awareness to nonprofit initiatives

Advertising august 26, 2016

The Best In Eye-Catching Olympics Campaigns

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the best advertising moments off the field

Work august 26, 2016

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Arts & Culture august 26, 2016

Transforming Light Waves Into A New Art Form

An artist uses glass treated with layers of metallic coatings to create a unique installation called lightpaintings


Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games

Design august 26, 2016

This Windbreaker Lets You Explore The Outdoors While Charging Your Phone

The apparel includes solar panels that allow the wearer to stay connected through the power of renewable energy

Asia august 26, 2016

The Goal Of This Game Is To Not Get Laid Off From Your Job

A hit mobile app has you working really, really hard to not get fired as you climb the corporate ladder

Advertising august 26, 2016

Movie Critic Bot Guides Viewers Through Festival Offerings

The Toronto International Film Festival has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to help attendants curate their schedule

No search results found.