Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Playing around with colour on Locating London's Past



Just in a spirit of playing around, and exploring large data sets without any preconceived questions or assumptions, I thought I would throw a few words at Locating London's Past and the Old Bailey dataset, and see if any patterns emerged. And it occurred to me that words for colour, when mapped on to eighteenth-century London, might come up more frequently in some parts of town over others - perhaps 'white' in neo-classical areas, and 'brown' or 'green' at the more rural boundaries. I am not sure that anything actually emerged, but it was fun to think about. The base measure against which you would want to compare these colour distributions would be all crime locations (34,000 or so) mapped by street.
ALL CRIME LOCATIONS, BY STREET
RED

BLUE

GREEN


BROWN

YELLOW
WHITE
BLACK

Is there a pattern there? I have not really got a clue, so I thought I would put together some combinations, just on the off chance, and following a naive assumption about how colour might work in an eighteenth-century urban context (where bright colours were expensive).



RED, BLUE, YELLOW

BLACK, WHITE


GREEN, BROWN


I was still not quite convinced, but thought I should have one last go with the data displayed as 'Large Blocks', and by further combining 'manufactured colours' and 'natural' ones.
RED, BLUE, YELLOW, BLACK, WHITE - LARGE BLOCKS



GREEN, BROWN - LARGE BLOCKS



Or finally, the same sets of results with the sets of colours subtracted from one an another.

RED, BLUE, YELLOW, BLACK, WHITE, MINUS GREEN AND BROWN- LARGE BLOCKS

GREEN AND BROWN, MINUS RED, BLUE ETC - LARGE BLOCKS

THE TWO COLOUR SETS MINUS THEIR OPPOSITE OVERLAID ('MANUFACTURED' VS 'NATURAL)


Does this prove that 'manufactured' colours were more common in the West and East End, while 'natural' colours dominated in the northern and north-western suburbs.  No, it does not.  But it made me wonder.

34 comments:

James Baker said...

Tim.

Your post reminded me of a question I had been meaning to ask since I first got my hands on LLP.

I am colour blind (red-green, green-brown, blue-purple). As a result I need to be able to select the colours I am using when generating data on the LLP maps in order to interpret them easily. I have managed to work out how to trick the site (generate a query you want, query you don't want for a colour that clashes with the previous query, generate a query you do want afterwards, then go back and delete the unwanted query), but I wondered if there were any plans to either:
a) allow users to choose their own colours for queries, or
b) include unique symbol markers for each colour (videogames have done this rather well over the years so red - say for threat - can be distinguished against a green environment).

Other than that I've been thoroughly enjoying trawling through LLP.

Tim Hitchcock said...

Dear Dr James, I am afraid at the minute we are out of money and time for this particular site, but let me log it for the next upgrade. I find the easiest way of scrolling through the colours is just to map the same old data a second or third time till you get to a colour that is useful (pretty much as you suggest only easier), and then remove the mappings that are not useful. All of this tends to be part of the Google Maps container - though we do have some control over it, and have eliminated some colours that we could not interpret easily. If it is useful, as far as I can tell the site results are produced in the following order:

Red
Green
Blue
Green/Blue
Pink
Orange

However, I can quite see that this would be irritating! And will try and get something done about it.

James Baker said...

Tim,

Thanks for getting back.
For me the fact that the first two are red and green is the main problem. Red > Blue > Yellow would be more helpful. But the workaround is fine, and hasn't put me off exploring the site.

James

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