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Category: Urban

An Easy Way to Map Data in R with Plotly

A couple of years ago, I wrote The complete n00bs guide to mapping in R, my first adventure into R. While that tutorial still holds up, if you’re looking to make a state-level Choropleth Map, there really isn’t anything easier than working with Ploty in R. Once you get R and RStudio installed and set up, there’s only a few steps that you need to take. If you have a spreadsheet or can make one easily enough of state-level data, like this ranking of mental health and access in the USA by states , you only need a couple of… Read An Easy Way to Map Data in R with Plotly

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What makes your city famous?

Last weekend, I was watching Clueless and looked up Pismo Beach, California on Wikipedia after Cher spearheads the disaster relief efforts for that city. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Pismo Beach claims to be the “Clam Capital of the World.” My dissertation examines the identities of cities claiming to be the “Capital of the World” in various industries during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and I recently released a digital project examining how Grand Rapids took on the identity of “Furniture City”. City identities, particularly ones based on economics, have been an interest of mine for a… Read What makes your city famous?

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“The Biggest City of Its Size in this Country”

At the beginning of the semester, I finished my dissertation prospectus. My committee told me to drastically cut the number of case studies with which I had begun (among many other good suggestions), lightening the workload while keeping the core idea. With the semester over, I’m going to try to recommit to discussing my research as it is in progress, particularly because I’m embarking on a new digital project, but I’ll blog more about that in the near future. The following is a rather long-winded personal account of how I got to my dissertation topic, if you want my succinct… Read “The Biggest City of Its Size in this Country”


Playing with Gephi

I finally got around to playing with sample data I collected on a research trip last summer. The data comes from the Rockford Chair and Furniture Company Records at Northern Illinois University. The most exciting part of this is that these visualizations were orders from one day, November 5, 1891, and they have several years of this data so there is much more potential in these records. I found Gephi quite easy to use and I’d recommend taking a look at it if you’re interested in making your own. P.S. There’s a typo on two of the images, just pretend… Read Playing with Gephi


Home of the Reuben

Later this month, Frank’s Kraut will officially name Omaha “The Home of the Reuben Sandwich.” While this title may seem like a humorous footnote in the city’s story, I would suggest it is indicative of the changing nature of Midwestern cities’ identities. Omaha’s first identity was as one of the Gateways to the West. The city’s nicknames changed as Omaha’s position in the national economy shifted from gateway to a regional industrial center, earning titles such as “Porkopolis” and “The Magic City” (because the city’s seemingly instant growth was magical). However, Omaha’s magical period has ended. Though Omaha’s future may… Read Home of the Reuben

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Does size matter?

How big exactly is a small city? This came up at my panel at the Urban History Conference (and rightfully so, it was organized around the theme of small cities). Being a notion central to my research, I have thought a bit about what exactly it means, making some notes about what other sources have to say. NPR looked for art in “small to mid-sized cities” which it described as cities with under 50,000 people. I make the case that Grand Rapids is a small to mid-sized city, though its population is much larger (190,000 in the city and 750,000… Read Does size matter?


Where am I from?

Where are you from? A simple question, well sort of. Even though it is a seemingly innocuous question, asking where some one “comes from” actually looks to discover the initial impressions of a person by situating them culturally as well as geographically. There are plenty of social stereotypes centered around geographical location. Like it or not, identifying as someone from a small rural city will give a different impression as someone from a large urban city. This does not mean that one is “better” but that a set of assumptions (correct or not) will be made about a person depending… Read Where am I from?

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Last summer, I wrote about public art and its usefulness from an urban perspective. Last month, I was back in Grand Rapids for a couple of days during ArtPrize and got to see some of the pieces around the city. While walking around downtown Grand Rapids, the difference between the ArtPrize approach and Lincoln’s more conservative approach to public art became even clearer. ArtPrize’s a very public displays and more festival like atmosphere drove home the superiority of the bold philosophy. I was only in Grand Rapids for about a day and a half, maybe two full days when everything… Read ArtPrize

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Invest in Art

The Lincoln Journal Star is reporting today the Lincoln Partners for Public Art Development wants to turn Lincoln into a center for world class public art. First of all, I love the idea. Lincoln has a solid foundation of art from which it can build, including UNL’s Philip Johnson-designed Sheldon Museum of Art. And public investment in the arts reaps an even larger economic impact (Michigan has made $51 for every $1 apparently). Even though the investment is quite encouraging (see these Journal Star articles for more on the abstract piece, giant head, and my favorite), for this investment to… Read Invest in Art

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Urban Portal

Urban Portal catalogs seemingly every resource available online to urban scholars. The project’s main sections, emerging research and resources boast a large number of links with impressive search functions. Emerging research has two sections, “Issues” and “New & Noteworthy.” Issues are short scholarly examinations of socially relevant topics, like Does racial segregation hurt the poor?. New & Noteworthy collects news items related to urban issues. Resources organizes online resources into Data, including GIS data sets, Events, Journals, Links (to things like H-Urban, Historypin, and Hyper cities, and Organizations (108 listed when I visited). Those in the Chicago area may also… Read Urban Portal

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