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Intensity Maps with Fusion Tables   Tags: 0type tutorial, maps, research tutorial  

Learn to create a thematic map using Google Fusion Tables and data from the World Bank.
Last Updated: Mar 28, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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Intensity map: Crude birth rate (per 1,000 people)



  1. First we need data to map. Go to the World Bank's data and pick out an indicator. (Hint: something general, like birth rate, will include more countries.) Go to the page for the indicator, click on Download Data, and select Excel file. Save to your desktop.
  2. Next, go to Google Drive and log in.  Fusion Tables are a kind of Google Doc and are stored as Table in Google Drive, but first you must add the Fusion Tables App. Click on Create > Connect more apps, then search for Fusion Tables. Click on the "Connect" button to add the app.
  3. Now, when you click on Create in Google Drive, you should see the Fusion Table option. Click on this to create a new Fusion Table document.
  4. You'll have several options for importing data. Since you have saved the data to your desktop, you can use "From this computer." Click on Browse, navigate to your desktop, and select the file you downloaded from the World Bank. Click on Next.
  5. Fusion Tables will give you a preview of the data. Check to make sure it makes sense, then click Next.
  6. With the next menu, describe the data. Go back to the World Bank page for the indicator and copy the indicator name into Table Name, attribute the data to the World Bank, and copy in the URL for the indicator's page for Attribution page link. Click Finish.
  7. It may take a few second to import the data, but at this point you should see something that looks like a spreadsheet, with rows for each country or region, and columns for the years. Fusion Tables can create a map with this, but you must first identify which column contains the locations to map. Go to Edit > Modify Columns. Select the column Country Names and change the Type to Location. Click Save.
  8. You should see the country names now highlighted in yellow. This shows that these have been assigned as locations, so we are ready to make a map. Select Visualize > Intensity map.
  9. Take a moment to explore the resulting map. Notice that you should be able to change the year displayed using the drop-down menu for Value. You'll also notice that there are some countries missing data, including Russia and Egypt. Take note of any countries that are not shaded in. Next, we will fix these omissions.
  10. Go back to the table view by selecting Visualize > Table. Scroll down to findthe row for Egypt. Why do you think it didn't show up? Click on the text, change it to "Egypt," and hit enter.
  11. When you are satisfied with the way the map looks, you are ready to share it. While you are viewing the intensity map, click on “Get embeddable code.” You will have to change the visibility so it is public, and then you can email a link or use the code to embed in a website.
  12. If you go back to the intensity map view, you should see that Egypt is now colored in. Now fix the names of the other missing countries in the same way. (Hint: if you're not sure what Google calls a country, go to the intensity map view and in the box for Area, start typing what you think it might be called, and it will tell you Google's version.)
  13. Let’s experiment. In the box next to Area, enter United States and hit enter. Why do you think the map looks like it does?

Other Web Mapping Tools

  • WorldMap
    Open source system from Harvard for creating maps, uploading and downloading shapefiles and KMLs.
  • GeoCommons
    Versatile option for distributing, mapping, and some analysis of spatial data.
  • indiemapper
    Create web-based or print-quality maps with shapefile, GPX or KML files.
    Esri's answer to popular web mapping sites. Use Esri's data or upload your own shapefiles with a maximum of 1000 features.
  • Many Eyes
    This data visualization site from IBM allows you to upload and map data from countries and US counties. Requires free registration. All uploaded data sets become publicly viewable. (May work better on IE.)
  • Tableau Public
    Quickly build interactive maps based on states, counties, ZIP codes or countries.

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