Launch HyperCities

Author Archive

We are pleased to announce that Harvard University Press has published HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (June 2014). A new, companion website featuring projects built on the HyperCities idea has also launched:











Directed by: Todd Presner, Diane Favro, and Chris Johanson


Please visit for the full schedule


We are pleased to announce the 12 participants in the 2012 NEH Summer Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities:

Ryan Cordell (English, Northeastern University), “Networks and Textual Histories of the ‘Celestial Railroad.’”

Jonathan Massey (School of Architecture, Syracuse University), “Occupying Wall Street: Places and Spaces of Political Action”

John Maciuika (Art and Architectural History, CUNY—Baruch College), “Berlin Palace Reconstruction, Urban Development, and the Cartographic Imagination”

Jennifer Reut (Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Postdoctoral Scholar), “Mapping a Landscape of African American Travel, 1944-1964: Invisibility, Mobility and Autonomy”

Paula R. Lupkin (independent scholar), “Mapping the Great Southwest”

Nobuko Toyosawa (History, USC), “A Digital Mapping of Placing Japan: National Imaginaries and the Formation of Historical Knowledge in the Tokugawa and Meiji Eras.”

Gabriel Hankins (University of Virginia Scholars Lab, Graduate Fellow), “Mapping Modernism”

Annie Danis (independent scholar), “Mapping the Rainbow Bridge Monument Valley Expedition”

Lillian Manzor (Modern Languages, University of Miami), “Miami Through its Spanish Performing Arts Spaces”

Niall Atkinson (Art History, University of Chicago) and Peter Leonard (Director, Humanities Research Computing, University of Chicago), “Renaissance Cartography / Renaissance Chorography: Florence in Census and Senses”

Angel David Nieves(Africana Studies, Hamilton College), “The Soweto HGIS Project: Cartographies of Apartheid and Resistance in the Spatial Humanities”


The purpose of the Institute is to bring together a cohort of 12 Humanities scholars and advanced graduate students across various disciplines to learn how to develop innovative publications and courses that harness the theoretical and practical approaches of the “geospatial Humanities.” By geospatial Humanities, we mean the centrality of place, geo-temporal analysis, and mapping for conceptualizing, investigating, and visualizing research problems in fields such as history, architecture, classics, literary studies, art history, as well as the humanistic social sciences (archaeology, anthropology, and political science). Situated at the intersection of critical cartography and information visualization, the Institute will combine a survey of the “state of the art” in interoperable geospatial tools and publication models, with hands-on, studio-based training in integrating GIS data into Humanities scholarship, developing spatial visualizations, and deploying a suite of mapping tools in the service of creating publication-ready research articles and short monographs with robust digital components.

With the generous support of the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, the HyperCities Los Angeles Research Collection has launched.
The “Los Angeles Research Collection” empowers citizens and researchers to use the tools of interactive “time mapping.” With HyperCities, you can explore social, cultural, and political history in Los Angeles over time. The site can be accessed from a web-browser in any school, community center, government office, home, and academic setting, allowing citizens to delve into and create their own collections of mappable knowledge and cultural heritage. Community-generated content exists side-by-side with scholar-produced research data, thereby creating new interactions between traditionally separated domains of knowledge.

A centerpiece of the Los Angeles Research Collection is the “Pdub” collection of materials from Historic Filipinotown. Built by the Pilipino Worker’s Center (PWC), a community service organization serving LA’s Historic Filipinotown (“Hi Fi”), and Public Matters, a public history design and educational media partnership, “Pdub Productions” is an innovative project using new media as a way to connect with, explore and promote Hi Fi’s rich history and culture. The collection brings to life historical maps of the region using the voices, narratives, and videos of generations of people who live in the neighborhood. In addition to featuring a trove of archival materials relating to the history of the region, it also provides viewers with a cultural map of the present-day neighborhood.

Social Scientists have contributed several important datasets as seed-beds for the planned growth of the Los Angeles Research Collections. One is the Los Angeles County Union Census Tract Data Series, 1940-2000 (Los Angeles: University of Southern California, 2000-2006), created under the leadership of Philip Ethington and Dowell Myers, and consisting of 438 variables, for the years 1940-2000. With this data, users can track the demographic history of any census track in Los Angeles county over the past sixty years, or examine shifts in ethnic composition, median income, education level, age, occupation, and more. The Voting and Demographic Data for the 2001 and 2005 Mayoral Elections in the City of Los Angeles, contributed by Mark Drayse and Raphael Sonenshein of CSU Fullerton, was funded by the Russell Sage Foundation; the Annual Immigration Data Aggregated to ZIP Code level data set was assembled by Ali Modarres of CSU Los Angeles. HyperCities supplies the connective links between these separate collections and allows researchers, scholars, and community groups to access and utilize these data through a common online platform.

The “HiFi” collection is a “Featured Collection” — but users can also create their own collections using the publicly available data or “mix-and-match” historical maps and other collections from the HyperCities site. To do so, simply close the HiFi collection (click the box in the upper-right corner) and begin exploring the historical maps and collections. You can always return to HiFi under “featured collections” (click the book icon to see the full narrative view of the collection). Over the next year, we will be dramatically expanding the LA collections with new featured collections on neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights and more demographic data-sets.

Todd Presner delivers the keynote lecture at the Coalition for Networked Information (April 2011): “HyperCities; Using Social Media and GIS to Archive and Map Time-Layers in Berlin, Los Angeles, Rome, Tehran, and Cairo.”

Three HyperCities Now Maps by Yoh Kawano

Japan Crisis Commons Data Layers Map created by HyperCities collaborator, Yoh Kawano.

HyperCities Now Crisis Map focused on Japan Earthquake (linking twitter and GIS) — needs Google Earth plugin.

HyperCities Sendai: Live streaming and archival map of tweets from Sendai since March 10, 2011

Visualization of 700,000 tweets from Japan, 450,000 from Libya, and 400,000 from Egypt (search parameters are based on keyword and displayed as data visualization over time). Choose twitter archive, keyword, and visualization type. Note: will take about 30 seconds to initially query DB and load visualization.

May 6-7, 2011: Links to Presner and Kowano Harvard presentation at Center for Geographic Analysis

Created by Xarene Eskandar, a graduate student at UCLA, this HyperCities collection curates the “media history” of the election protests in Iran, beginning on June 13, 2009, and continuing through December.  As a series of richly curated maps, the collection geo-locates and chronologically organizes more than 800 YouTube videos, Twitter feeds, Flickr photographs, and other forms of documentation.  The result is the largest, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and sometimes even minute-by-minute web documentation of the election protests in Iran.

For an overview of this project, click on the YouTube link below:

To view the collection, click on the image below.  Depending on your screen width, you may want to “slide” the collection open by dragging the divider between the map and the narrative panel.  You can also switch between map, earth, and satellite view in HyperCities.

Election Protests in Iran

Interview with Xarene Eskandar:

Tell me about the ambition/goals of the project.  Why are you doing it?
Working against Iranian state media censorship, I wanted to keep track of the protests across the country and especially the capital, Tehran, to show they are not isolated events. My goal is to raise awareness of the magnitude of discontent, as well as keep a record of it due to the temporal nature of Twitter. State media either denied there were any protests, or they circulated false news that the unrest was only in northern Tehran, a well-to-do part of the city (and sympathetic to Western culture), and a few times they even claimed the opposition to be pro-government while broadcasting the protests with no audio. They also claimed all other provinces were calm, while in fact the protests were not limited to class, age or province and were wide-spread.

Why is mapping the best venue to present this work?
For those unfamiliar with the visual landscape of Tehran, I found HC an interesting platform to map a visual narrative of the videos and photographs to locations. The videos and photographs assist in showing the scale of the protests in terms of bodies present (which are always reported in much smaller numbers in the news) and the area they occupy.

How do you hope people will interact with your project?
Because of the control of state media, the provinces are isolated from each other and from Tehran; news doesn’t travel fast, and it is especially slower when online resources are shut down. Mapping all cities was a daunting task and in the end I am only focusing on Tehran, so at this point I would like to have other cities mapped (which is more difficult to do after the fact, than following the events as they unravel). If the visual information becomes widespread, it can be used to boost morale. Seeing the reach and occurrence of the protests is far more powerful than reading and hearing scattered information about them.

Do you have any plans to continue it or add more layers of info?
Absolutely. There are many levels of information to any mapping project. I am working with Professor Johanna Drucker (UCLA, Information Studies) on creating a qualitative layer of information. For example, how is the space of anxiety in the hours leading to definite confrontation formed by the collective emotions amassed in the area? How do the spaces of the two sides of a conflict intersect? etc.

Does it go beyond digital curation (ie, to analysis/interpretation of the events)?
Placing the information in chronological order and analyzing them for accuracy of date and time has led to a third project: studying protest slogans. I’ve been comparing slogans (chants and written signage) to make sure, for example, the Quds Day protest videos were 2009, not 2008. While fact-checking I noticed how the slogans shape the momentum of the masses, and also how media changes the slogans. What the protesters chant is not always necessarily aimed at the coup government, but is a message for Western media, to show the true intent and beliefs of the people. Another facet to the language of opposition during this time has been an increase of new poetry blogs, as well as a switch to poetry on existing blogs to avoid censorship and imprisonment. Iran has a terrible record of imprisoning and torturing bloggers (Hoder is still in prison and Omidreza Mirsayafi was killed 19 March 2009). Sylère Lotringer brought to my attention that this was also happening with the Stasi in Berlin, so definitely a project worth investigating. Right now, the project is primarily in text and in its very early stages.

Keeping a detailed track of the events over the past few months has also shown how the students–who are the primary forces of the protests–have become more organized, smarter and mature in countering the government’s moves to crush them, physically and digitally. It has also revealed the different shifts of alliances and loyalties among people (ethnically, as well as class and age), police, coup forces, etc. It is very exciting to witness the emergence.

The first video is a basic introduction to adding media in HyperCities:

The second video will teach you the basics of creating a map using Google My Maps.

The third video tells you how to add your Google My Map into HyperCities.

The mobile media tours of LA’s Historic Filipinotown (HiFi) were a  resounding success with the participation of scores of students, community activists, politicians, and members of the general public exploring the history of HiFi.  Participants followed the pathways of four immigrants through different periods in HiFi’s history on GPS-enabled Nokia Tablets and in an authentic Jeepney, a refurbished transport jeep from WWII.  The content was produced by Pdub youth, who worked with Public Matters, the Pilipino Workers’ Center, UCLA’s REMAP, and HyperCities, to produce the digital media tours. Check out the videos below and click here for a news story about the event.

Historic Filipinotown

The Jeepney

On Sat. Sept. 26 we are launching a series of four Mobile Media Guides to Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown. This is the culmination of Public Matters’ first year of Pdub Productions, our collaboration with The Pilipino Workers Center, HyperCities, Remap L.A,  USC, local youth and community members. And we have quite the event to wrap it up.
There are free walking tours btwn. 1-6 and then a big Barrio Fiesta fundraising party that evening at the Pilipino Workers Center, 153 Glendale Blvd.
Tour-goers will use GPS-enabled Nokia tablets to access audio, photos and maps that bring to life immigrant perspectives and time periods. Each guide features one central figure of the period but is augmented by many other personal stories of life in Historic Filipinotown or Los Angeles during the time period: a Filipino “Fountain Pen Boy” (1898-1945), a Filipino Farm Worker (1945-1965), a Latina Teen (1965- 2002), and a Filipina Caregiver (2002-present).
Highlights the day include:
High-tech meets history: Free Mobile Hi Fi Immigrant Guides Walking Tours from 1-6 pm
A jeepney returns to the U.S.: The world premiere of the Pilipino Workers Center Jeepney. It will be our largest piece of “mobile media” and actually will be tricked out to play the guides.
Celebrity Jeepney Tour: led by L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti at 1 pm.
A Barrio Fiesta fundraiser: from 6:30-9:30 including food, performances, music, an outdoor screening of the youth videos from the project, a raffle, and more.
Illustrations of jeepney parts by Emmy-winning animator and Simpsons Assistant Director Jess Espanola. Proceeds will keep the jeepney running!
Jeepney T-Shirts
* Pdub Productions Youth Media Screening: at the Barrio Fiesta
To make reservations and purchase tickets and for the most complete and up-to-date event into, visit our event blog:

Welcome!  Click the video below to learn about the new site.