Mapping the Cultural Buzz: How Cool is that? and the relationship to my Music Mapping Project

For my map critique I decided to look at a mapping project called, “The Geography of Buzz”. This project was conducted using geographic information systems (GIS) – a tool that is commonly used for mapping and geographically analyzing systematically collected information (Hillier).  In order to begin, it is imperative that I explain the purpose of this project and the data-set behind it or else this map might only resemble a piece of art for one’s wall.

Click to see full map.

The Project


The buzz project was centralized around the cultural foundations of Los Angeles and New York City. The purpose of the project was to locate hot spots based on the frequency and draw of cultural happenings: film and television screenings, concerts, fashion shows, gallery and theater openings (Ryzik).


For the buzz project, snapshots from more than 6,000 events — 300,000 photos total — from Getty Images were categorized according to event type, controlled for overly celebrity-driven occasions and geo-tagged at the street level, a feature that helps to precisely pinpoint location-specific information (Ryzik). The researchers then conducted GIS and spatial statistics to analyze macro-geographical patterns (Curid & Williams).


This map is very visually appealing. Each portion of the map clearly identifies which cultural sector it is referring to with legible white headings on the stark black background. Each section identifiably depicts the shape of Manhattan within its grid lines and uses vibrant colours in combination with an infrared technique to show obvious variances in data findings.

While the layout and visual appeal of the map communicates attractiveness and clarity, there is a lot missing with regards to the context in which it the map is presented.

“This ‘hot spot’ map indicates areas where events take place more often relative to the rest of the city (Curid & Williams)”. This is a caption I would have really appreciated reading when I first came across the map. There is basically no readable or contextual information available on this map. There is no visible data set that allows the user to use interact with or understand the purpose of the map and draw conclusions from it. Only once the viewer conducts some extensive research into the project does it become clear what this map represents. For example, the results of the research tell that the buzziest areas in New York are around Lincoln and Rockefeller Centers (Ryzik). In reading this map, it seems extremely farfetched  to reach such a conclusion.

Spatial mapping is about intertrepting data, spatially. The conclusions drawn from this map seem limitied and do not seem to use GIS to its maximal potential in terms of using its precision and high quality to enhance the user experience and potential benefits of the information spectrum.

This record is a good example of a map that became too simplistic in terms of becoming a graphic design. This map needs its own tools and references in order to be useful to the viewer, or else it just becomes an arbitrary visual component.


After conducting extensive research I was able to gain access to a 25-page document that included the map below:

This representation and format would have been more useful upon first glance. There is a clear title, subject, caption, scale and legend, which create context for the map. The information presented and the use of a singular colour creates a better feeling of balance in terms of information, visual representation and understanding of the subject. Here, there is an identifiable scale that allows the viewer to draw clear conclusions as to which areas of the city are more populated and to what their degree of popularity is on a relative scale. With this data available in plane sight, the priorities of information in relation to visual representation of the data are much more balanced and are complimentary of one another.


If I were to recreate this map I would do two things differently. Firstly, if I were going to create a static representation of the data set I would prepare the final product in the more comprehensive format.

Ideally, and what I would like to do accomplish with my project in mapping the live music halls of Manhattan and their change over time, I would create an interactive version of this map within the space of a project archive. I would use an interface that allowed me to click on each hotspot and read about its location, its history and its current status within the social and cultural sphere accompanied by a photograph of the area. Furthermore, depending on what city or cultural sector I was interested in learning about, there would be a function that would allow me to change the base map and colour that would correspond with those on the static map. This way both representations are consistent with one another and provide accurate reference for the users.

Finally, this interactive interface would be made available within the published documents associated with the project. This way, if the user has any further inquiries, they have immediate access to additional resources instead of having to go elsewhere to find associated information.


What I realize now is that this project is not really centralized around mapping, even though its title reads, “Mapping the Cultural Buzz: How Cool is That?” accompanied by a picture of a graphically appealing map.

One can only assume that this map is one of many in a larger project that has broader goals, however, the priorities of the project and data collection are unclear.

It is important to maintain consistency and understanding with regards to maps and visual representations of data-collection throughout a project. Right from the get-go, what seems to be the simplest and most fundamental feature of mapping, instituting a title, proves to be misleading.

With the advent of social media and the increasingly changing cultural sphere is this project obsolete before its even complete? While this map is extremely appealing to the creative eye, it does not clearly represent the researchers conclusions nor maximize the benefits of GIS technology.

Works Cited

Knowles, Anne K. “GIS and History.” Placing History. Redlands, CA: ESPRI. 1-25. Print.

Mattern, Shannon. “Map Critique Discussion.” Urban Media Archaeology. New York, New York. 13 Oct. 2011. Lecture.

Ryzik, Melena. “Mapping the Cultural Buzz: How Cool Is That?” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 18 Oct. 2011. Web. 12 Oct. 2011. <>.

Williams, Sarah, and Elizabeth Curid. “The Geography of Buzz: Art, Culture, and the Social Milieu in Los Angeles and New York.” Journal of Economic Geography (2009): 1-29. Abstract. Print.

Williams, Sarah, and Elizabeth Curid. The Geography of Buzz: Art, Culture and the Social Milieu in Los Angeles and New York. Working paper. New York: Columbia University, 2009. Print.


My Project











As I have been thinking about my attributes and entities for my music venue data collection it has brought me back to my map critique. I have been wondering what criteria the researchers here used in order to decide which venues to include and why.

Last week as we began to brainstorm our attributes and entities I began to make a spread sheet of my initial data collection thoughts/intentions. So far, this is what I have come up with:



There are many more venues that I have to add to this list, however before I continue I know I need to make some important decisions.

I have to decide whether I want to separate any of these attributes into their own separate entities and whether or not I would like to include the following:

A.  a cap on venue size – if it us under a certain amount it will not be included in my data set

B. how far back I want to look for venues that have been closed to include in the data set


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