January 28, 2007

Google maps book content

Filed under: mashups — ubikcan @ 11:19 am

Every time I start to go off Google (such as their censorship of imagery), they come up with something brilliant. This time it’s the idea that you can map the places mentioned in books and stick them on a map mashup. How well does it work? I ran a few tests.


When you search for a book using books.google.com you can select an option called “more about this book.” This takes you to some sample pages, the table of contents, related books, citations of the book by others, and a google map mashup. Any words identified as places in the book are tagged on the map.

This works well. In the example above you can see that places like Accra and Atlanta are successfully tagged. Brilliantly, Google links in the surrounding text and gives the page number where each place is mentioned. You just click on the tag or on the list below the map.

These maps not only give you a chance to see how “platial” the book is (how rich in geographical reference) but also of course through the map to see how concentrated or distributed the book is. “Where” the book in its focus? Is it Westernized? Is it biased to Europe/N. America? One could also compare the maps from two different books on the same topic (eg., the spread of a disease like HIV or SARS) to see if they tell different stories.

Over time, one could also compile an intensity map, to see which parts of the world are foremost in our consciousness (which places get mentioned a lot). This could also be done comparatively. What is the worldview, as a whole from Australia vs. South America or Turkey? Has it changed over time (eg., is Turkey orienting more towards Europe recently?).

If actual addresses are mentioned (as in a guidebook) it will also locate those as well:

However there are still a few bugs. A reference to a person’s name that also happens to be a town in France (Lyon) is tagged on the map. San Salvador becomes El Salvador.

And as they say in British newspapers why oh why does Google still use the Mercator projection?? Both Peters AND Robinson must be spinning in their graves!

Still, this is a great feature.


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