Archive for Fun

Geography of Personality

Map clip - geography of personality

Today’s Wall Street Journal carries the article, The United States of Mind: Researchers Identify Regional Personality Traits Across America which discusses findings published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

In A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics researchers from  the University of Cambridge,  University of Texas at Austin, and Atof Inc. “present a theoretical account of the mechanisms through which geographic variation in psychological characteristics emerge and persist within regions.” The study maps personality traits by geography alongside geographic indicators of crime, employment, health, social capital, religiosity, and political values.

The study found fascinating correlations, such as high-anxiety states having higher rates of heart disease and lower life expectancy. See the cool interactive map and decide whether you fit your state’s rankings.

Fun: How well do you know your landmarks?

A quick fun diversion. I sure hope you can beat my score of 80% right. Guess the Spot.

Wii Maps the News and Weather

Wii News

All of the news about the Wii this holiday season has been about its scarcity. If anyone has been worrying about location and the Wii, it is about where to find one. While the Nintendo game platform is not new, the company apparently could not keep up with demands this holiday season. However, my crafty wife landed one a couple months ago so I’ve played it the first time recently. While the games are sure unique, using the motion of the remote to take action, there is an incredible implementation of news and weather reports tied to maps that seems to have gone almost unnoticed.

To get the Wii news and weather, one has to buy the Internet connectivity for $5. Once connected, the Wii has separate news and weather applications regularly updated over the Internet. So what? There are countless news and weather sites on the Internet and channels on TV. But like its games, the Wii news and weather are different.

It’s different because on the Wii, the news and weather are tied to interactive image maps. With NASA earth imagery as their backgrounds, the weather and news show on their locations on a globe. There is zooming and panning, making you feel powerful, moving the globe like the Greek god Atlas. Go anywhere and see the weather – for the larger cities. See news in an area with the pictures stacked up in the location the news occurred. Or review the news by category, select the story of interest, and see the full text next to the NASA image of the place.

I find the geographic interactivity of these Wii news and weather applications unique. It provides a sense of place and control over earth observation tied to current events. Kudos to Nintendo for creating a fun and interesting way to give news and weather while teaching people to see the places. Now if Nintendo only would show a map of where to buy one of these hot game machines …

How Well Do You Know Your World?

Traveler IQ
Of growing popularity on Facebook is, curiously enough, a game in which one guesses the location of places on a world map. Traveler IQ presents a small-scale map of the world and then prompts you to click where you think is the right location of the city or other place. There is a timer and one scores points based on speed and accuracy. Players advance to increasingly difficult levels and the game ends when they run out of time.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, TravelPod founder Luc Levesque created the game to draw people to his travel Web site TravelPod.
Adonomics, a site that tracks and values Facebook applications, shows that almost 1.7 million people have installed Traveler IQ as an application on their profiles and the game enjoys more than 33,000 daily active users. Adonomics has been tracking the site since June 28.

While it’s great to see the popularity of a geography-based game, Travelr IQ has some annoying quirks. Because of the map scale, pinpointing the exact location of a city is virtually impossible, even when you know exactly where it is on the map. While one gets points based on distance from your guess to the actual location, the scale of the map gets annoying after a few plays. (And it’s not just me that thinks this – there are many Facebook comments on this point as well.)

Also, the location questions recycle frequently, meaning players can learn the correct locations and better their scores (if they can remember the right answers). This skews the leader board to those who replay the game frequently. Scoring should account for the number of times a player has played the game.

Since the developer made Traveler IQ for marketing and it is so popular as is, I doubt he will make improvements. Quirks aside, it’s nice to see so many people, at least those using Facebook, find attraction in a location-themed game. There are other map games on the Internet – a decent sampling from shows a few including many similar to Traveler IQ, called “Find It” but for regions. Find It games also give you a chance to guess until you are right or skip a question. National Geographic offers GeoSpy amongst a slew of other games on its site. While these games are, in my view, “better” they are not on Facebook.

Even more popular on Facebook than Traveler IQ is Where I’ve Been which lets people post a map on their profiles showing places, well, where they’ve been. With almost five million Facebook installs, according to Adonomics, the application is also available for other social networking sites including MySpace and Bebo. While it’s not a game, per se, it is fun to see and compare where friends have been.

The popularity of Traveler IQ shows that games might be a decent, and perhaps underused, teaching tool for geography, worth more formal exploration by educators and geographers. It also shows that to reach an audience, you have to go where they hang out — online on social networking sites!