Mapping death

January 5th, 2015

It’s been a while since I posted on this topic, but a clever thought has brought it back to my attention.

Last year, I spent a little time exploring the City of Cincinnati’s publicly available 591-6000 dataset, a list of calls to the City’s public service help-line. It’s the kind of thing your unpleasant neighbours call in to when they want to nag the City for not fixing a crack in the sidewalk or when they’re otherwise too lazy to do do something themselves; also, sometimes for legitimate reasons like broken signs and overflowing trash cans. Most interesting to me is that you can call the number to report that an animal is dead, almost always after having been struck by a reckless driver, these invariably having not the fortitude or the decency to carry through the butchery that they’ve initiated. As a result, a living animal is reduced to a body, and the body is indecent and must be removed.

What I created then was a map showing a kernel density approximation of callers asking the city to basically pick up a rotting corpse in the right-of-way. I think that’s a pretty fucked-up thing to establish a bureaucracy for, so I mapped it! It occurred to me that a kernel density map looks like a splatter of blood if the colors are right, and so that’s what I tried to do. I even sampled the colors directly from a photo of a dissection.

map of roadkill deaths in Cincinnati ohio, 2008-2013But it didn’t come out like I had it in my mind…My clever thought then is the reason why: I was using pixels instead of blood!

-_-    duh.

The plan now, and I’m not sure what I’ll ever do with this, is to print a nice base-map on some decent paper, and then to either screenprint or stencil the density function over top with blood and other body fluids from some of the actual animals I’m concerned with.  Initially, I asked my partner to bleed me, which he politely refused. It seems however, and the data doesn’t at all contradict this, the city is full enough with violent death that I needn’t worry my own fingers. He gave me a small bottle of blood and the promise of more.

bottle of bloodI picked up some paper from the neighbourhood art store and I used this to test some swatches.

blood swatchesAnd I liked the color best on the off-white paper, so that’s what I’m currently designing for. I tossed together a super-simple base map this morning.

blood-mapWhat will it look like when it’s done? How will it serve as a pretence for me to finally use that giant laser-cutting-machine? What’s the point in a ‘society’ that clearly doesn’t give one-tenth of a shit?

Tune in next time.

2 responses to “Mapping death”

  1. So this is based on the density of kills? Does the dataset indicate the species or size of each kill, so you could factor in the total volume? Wooded areas would register a lot more with all the deer that get hit. Also, don’t forget ODOT and their Interstate particle accelerators:

    But save that map for the end of October.

    • It’s based on the density of calls about ‘dead animal’s, which means it’s not just in places where cars and animals intersect, but also people with time and phones. So there might be a lot of corpses on the highways but people won’t bother to call. Liminal neighborhoods with people, fast traffic, and wooded hillsides (like Fairmount) seem to have a lot of reports.

      Each record has a description field that the operator fills in and which presumably guides the retrieval people. I tried searching that for keywords like ‘dog’, ‘cat’, etc, which worked pretty well. But there’s no consistent record of the species or anything.

      I was planning to take the map to the next NACIS meeting, which actually now that you mention it, IS in October 😀






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