CATEGORY: UI, Front End, Data, Data Research
ROLE: Project Development, Research, Design, Programming
UnseenPlacesUSA is a website, Twitter bot and data set that explores unusual and ignored places in the United States. The website is a way for users to explore the dataset, while @UnseenPlacesUSA tweets a location every hour, with a picture, Google Maps Link, and a short description. The data for this project was assembled by scraping data from various sources including Wikipedia, hobbyist websites, and industry websites.
There are many reasons that a place may be unseen. Some places are remote, others may be unknown. Some places may be willfully ignored. Whether or not a place is unseen is largely a matter of perspective. A power plant is not unseen if you live next to it. A prison is not unseen if someone you know is incarcerated. A mine is not unseen if you work there. Unseen places reveal own point of view as much as they expose unknown locations.
Unseen places is an ongoing collection of data. I created through my research into places that I found interesting and unusual. This dataset is not objective in any way and reflects my own interests, biases, and limitations. After I have found an interesting unseen place, I research where similar places can be found. Lists of locations can be found from many sources, such as Wikipedia, hobbyist websites, and industry websites. After I have found a location list I scrape the it using Node-Scrapy, convert it to a standard schema, and record it in a database collection.
If you know a place that belongs in the UnseenPlacesUSA dataset please send me an email.
A Twitter bot is an ideal way to 'perform' the UnseenPlacesUSA data. Each tweet is a public broadcast of an unknown location. It almost feels like telling a secret. Tweeting the locations foregos any holistic understanding of this data, which reflects the incomplete and haphazard nature of its collection. Also, by using the Google Maps API I can attach a satellite image and location link to each tweet, so that people can see the location and investigate themselves.