Crowdsourcing in GIS- Social Media Information Used to Display Fan Territories

Our GIS blog has categories ranging from tips, profiles of various projects and regionally relevant news. We also have a category on “Cool Maps,” which this post is going to touch on.

On my GIS Profile Page, I’ve listed Deadspin’s NFL fan map by county as my favorite map of all time, touting its cultural spheres of influence going beyond sports. This spring, The New York Times Upshot released a really interesting interactive map titled A Map of Baseball Nation that embraces the power and capabilities of modern GIS technology. Both fanbase maps used crowdsourcing. If you are unfamiliar with the term, crowdsourcing is “sometimes referred to as volunteered geographic information (VGI) or user-generated content (UGC), crowdsourced data is contributed by non-authoritative sources (e.g., everyday citizens)” as sited by ESRI. Crowdsourcing seems to be gaining a lot of traction to increase public input. The Civic Hacking Event uses technology to improve communities and government and has several projects that involve crowdsourcing.

The maps (pictured below) used crowdsourcing through social media to collect spatial information about fanbases. When comparing the two, the NFL map is a nice visual static representation of fan territories, while the Baseball Nation interactive map enables the user to zoom in and scroll over the data to the zip code level.

Provided by Deadspin, 2013.

Provided by Deadspin, 2013.

Provided by the New York Times, 2014

Provided by the New York Times, 2014.

Below is an example of the type of analysis that can be pulled by viewing this information spatially.

While baseball teams tend to have a more localized fanbase- for example, western Wisconsin is more Minnesota Twins than Milwaukee Brewers territory- the Vikings Packers boundary is the state line- indicating the NFL’s stronger metric of the rivalry between the states.

Both maps profile established national powers- the NFL’s Steelers, Cowboys and Packers fanbases populate many rural areas, as do the Yankees and to a lesser extent the Red Sox in baseball. Contrarily, more recent expansion or relocated franchises (within the last 30 years or a generation) clearly have a smaller geographical reach- such as the Titans, Jaguars, Panthers, Rams and Cardinals- barley extending beyond the greater metropolitan area of their home city. In baseball markets with two teams, the less popular team- the Mets, White Sox, A’s and Angels are barely present on the map- and their text labels disappear when you zoom out.

These maps are very different than our water service lines or municipal exhibits, and we’re guessing that you don’t need the AE2S Geomatics Group to tally your local population’s sports allegiances. However, it’s worth checking out the power of crowdsourcing in nationally-scaled cartography.

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