Launch HyperCities

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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

Yesterday, an NBC news crew visited UCLA to do a story about HyperCities Egypt. Today, the story was featured on <a href="" target="_blank”>NBC LA. The story contains a video interview with Yoh Kawano explaining the project. This has resulted in coverage for HyperCities from as far away as the Times of India. We are grateful to NBC for covering our project and for generating so much attention for HyperCities, and are excited that people continue to find the project exciting and informative.

HyperCities has released a new project for mapping tweets sent by protesters in Cairo during the recent crisis. The project, “HyperCities Egypt: Voices from Cairo through Social Media,” tracks tweets since January 30, and continues to collect tweets sent from within Cairo that mention hashtags relevant to the protests, such as #jan25 or #egypt. We hope that this project will both make the experience of the protests more immediate to users in other parts of the world, and provide an archive useful for historians, political scientists and scholars in media and communication studies. The project has been featured in a UCLA Newsroom article and has received attention from the Twitter community.

Screenshot of HyperCities Egypt

The tweets’ location is based on the locations that Twitter users provide in their profiles, or GPS coordinates supplied by mobile devices. To protect users, coordinates supplied by mobile devices are truncated so that they are only accurate to about a kilometer when they are displayed. The database stores more accurate locations, but these are currently not visible to the public.

The project is the brainchild of Todd Presner, Yoh Kawano, and David Shepard. It is based on a tool Kawano had previously developed for mapping tweets, which Shepard and Kawano modified to display tweets from a specific area relating to specific topics, and added the archiving feature. Source code will be available for download and modification soon.

To view the project, visit

HyperCities Geo-Scribe, a project proposal by the HyperCities team, has been selected to receive one of the first Google Digital Humanities Research Awards. Geo-Scribe will be an extension to HyperCities, a mark-up tool that brings together books and maps in a collaborative authoring environment for exploring the spatial dimensions of literature. The tool will allow users to create maps of places related to books, and each point on each map will be linked back to specific pages in the books. Users will be able to browse all books that mention a certain time and place, and to browse all the maps created by users that are linked to a specific book. Geo-Scribe emphasizes multiple mappings and multiple perspectives and will add a social, participatory component to the mapping projects that have already been undertaken by Google Book Search.

Below is a hypothetical screenshot of what the project might look like, taken from the proposal:


For more information, please see the announcement from the Official Google Blog:

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 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