We’ve never had so much data. At Londonmapper we don’t aim to collect more, but to show these existing numbers in a new light. We’re building on the hugely successful Worldmapper website which produced images revealing social inequalities on a global scale. This is the first time we’re applying the same, though more advanced, techniques to a city.
In many ways London is the world in one city, super diverse in the variety of communities living here. But it’s also massively unequal. Just take life expectancy: the difference between Hackney and the West End is the same as the difference between England and Guatemala. The city has many disparities like this, though few are inevitable or insurmountable.
Our aim is to show these inequalities, as well as the issues on which we’re more equal. We’ve taken data, mainly from government sources, on hundreds of different social, economic and environmental issues and created maps that are distorted according to what the numbers mean; for example, if it’s much more expensive to rent in Westminster than in Enfield, then the borough of Westminster will be stretched out and be larger on the map than Enfield. We’ve also created several ways of seeing the same data, and all of the numbers are in traditional spreadsheets for those who want to dig a bit more.
Too often we’re unaware of the extent of inequalities within the city, or are presented with images, where, for instance, poor areas look small on the map because often they are crowded areas that become underrepresented in conventional maps. As a result we may think of poverty and inequality as problems which just blight the lives of a few people and that London is just a place for the very wealthy. Londonmapper will attempt to address some of these common misconceptions.
Currently there are over 300 cartographic images that show London since the start of the new century. They cover issues such as the number of people not in work, air pollution and house prices – there’s even one on hedgehogs! We’ll be adding many more maps over the coming months. On a number of issues we’ll be showing how the city has changed over time suggesting how London might change in the future if those trends continue.
We also plan to include comparisons to other world cities such as New York, Tokyo, Berlin and Paris. This will be limited to a smaller range of issues, but will highlight some of the stark differences, as well as the similarities. The site is an ongoing work and there are many more exciting new visualisations and commentaries to come.
Londonmapper has been created by Danny Dorling and Benjamin Hennig, based at the University of Oxford. It has been funded by Trust for London. The Trust is the largest independent charitable foundation funding work which tackles poverty and inequality in the capital. A key area of its work is supporting projects providing greater insights into the root causes of London’s social problems. Londonmapper is part of this work. In a world awash with data we hope it provides a new way to scan across all the detail to get a better overall impression of what it is we should know and care about.