Second Place

Martha Schnure, Middlebury College
Second Place, $1000

Return to Awards list

I Spy Map

I Spy: missed encounters in Burlington, Vermont

Before I ever set out to solve this problem, I took a pencil and paper and set the problem. What is bizarre? How can I best use an 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper with Ż″ margins? How far can I bend cartographic conventions before the map becomes truly unpleasant? What kinds of things appeal to the general public that do not appeal to famous cartographers, and vice versa? Once I came up with an idea, I had new questions: Will this resonate with an audience that is not familiar with Vermont? Does my use of meaningless visual variables like colored text make it aesthetically pleasing or confusing?

This map shows the spatial distribution of the missed connections posted in the beloved “I-Spy” section of Seven Days, a local free newspaper out of Burlington, Vermont. The basic premise of the I-Spy section is that people who had an encounter and would like to leave the other a message can do so and hope that the person sees the message and replies. The I-Spy section has a vast readership for two reasons: first, people like to check in case one of the posts is directed to them, and second, they are extremely enjoyable to read and they provide excellent insight into the human condition. Since many posts include the location where the encounter took place, I decided to map the missed connections to see if there is any trend in where singles are meeting each other and if there is any difference between the locations of posts by men and those by women. To me, this is a bizarre topic because it is something we can all relate toŚmaking eye contact and smiling at the cutie in the produce section—but it is something that is not taken seriously enough to be considered “data,” much less mappable data. I decided to plot the encounters on a map of the “Old Town” section of Burlington with proportional symbols and use the text of the posts to make up the base map of the city. Including the text brings life to the dots on the map and pulls the reader into each encounter.

The source of my data was the online version of Seven Days (www.7dvt.com). From the 2010 I-Spy posts, I collected only those which had locational information. I then used Google Maps to find the addresses, and used Batch Geo (www.batchgeocode.com) to find the coordinates of each of these addresses. I created a shapefile of these points in ArcGIS. I used the WGS 1984 coordinate system and the Vermont State Plane projection. I then exported the .mxd file as an .AI file and created the rest of the map, including the magnifying glass, in Adobe Illustrator.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. This is a wonderful contest and I hope you enjoy reading all these maps as much as we enjoyed making them.