A collaboration between ATLO and Budapest Brand. The aim of the project was to create an “online issue” mapping the web of cultural places located in Budapest. The data collection was made by the team of Budapest Brand: a survey of several aspects (size of venue, location, distance from transport hubs, collaborating people and places, etc) was sent to 10 chosen cultural places deemed to be important hubs in Budapest. From their responses the ATLO team created the two main elements of the project – the interactive map and the network graph – and added a reader platform for the
The three-day event where the interactive website was showcased was visited by hundreds of people amid the coronavirus pandemic. It was reviewed by several major online news site during the publication period. The project also attracted the attention of Nightingale editor-in-chief Jason Forrest.
The project started with data collection. Budapest Brand – a subdivision of the Budapest Metropolitan Municipality Mayor’s Office – created a survey in Google Sheets, that was sent to the 10 major hubs of the city. Data collection resulted in hundreds of cultural locations that are in the city and are in some way connected to these hubs – let it be collaborative work, partnership, etc. For the project, PhD student Zsolt K. Horváth wrote a study about the history of the cultural life of Budapest, that resulted in several new locations. Previous collections of historical locations were also used.
The map was made in Mapbox GL JS, and the network graph was made in Flourish. The site was written in HTML code, and several extra elements – such as the article reader, the menu – are custom-made.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part was creating the parallax effect while keeping the loading time of each element failry short. Since a lot of elements are stored in the final .html file, optimisation of the site was crucial and thus the most difficult to achieve. The site works best on newer computers, on any browser, or on iOS Safari on the iPhone.
It also had to be created in a short time, since data collection and data cleaning took a long time with many revisions. A big portion of site was made in the final week before launch.
Because of the parallax effect, more than one Mapbox element had to be inserted to the project. Krisztián Szabó, who coded the entire visualisation site, had a prior experience of 1,5 years of coding data visualisations and interactive maps, though many methods were first used in this project.
Data collection was also a difficult task. Since there were no such projects created in Hungary before, no datasets were available that included cultural locations of the past and the present. Few online static maps were made, but most of the data was gathered now for the first time. The site is not complete regarding locations, and there is a questionnaire that anyone can fill out, adding data about past or present locations that were not included in the initial data collection and on the visualisations.
What can others learn from this project?
The project shines light on the interconnectedness of a city’s cultural life. Many of the locations that the main hubs added to the dataset were not only connected to them, but to many other hubs and other smaller locations as well. It also shows that, historically speaking, most of the locations centered around the inner and older parts of the city, which might be true to any other capital cities of the world. A good lesson of this project that even though there might not be any data available about a certain topic, community data collection can go to great lenghts – it can bring to light aspects of life that otherwise might be forgotten or looked over.
From this project, data journalists can learn the power of interactivity. The site has some explainer texts, but it is mostly explorative. The split screen method (showing an interactive map or network graph while one can read an article) is an unusual approach to telling a story, but with this, we wanted to give more control to the user: they can decide wether to read a story or to explore the dataset, all simultaneously. The lesson here is that giving control, allowing users to explore a story to their liking can result in a great user experience – not every story can or has to be “force-fed” to the readers.