Blog Post

The geography of

The geography of


In general, the database behind includes little information about the physical geography of HASTAC members. There is an optional profile field in which members can enter their location information, but only a scarce few of you have done so.*

In fact, the primary source of location-related information we have comes from comments, for each of which is recorded an IP address -- blog and forum posts, opportunities, and news, are not associated with an IP address, just comments. While it is true that individuals' IP addresses do not always correspond to their literal physical location (for example, IP addresses can be virtual or spoofed, or one could use a remote desktop), I feel safe in assuming that the IP address attached to a member's comment is typically from that member's own computer.

If this is the case, then it is possible to roughly estimate the location of each of these commenters, using a geolocation API, such as that from InfoDB. Fortunately for me, there is an easy way to do this in R, by use of the geoPlot package.

Essentially, the ipListLookup() function takes as an input a vector of IP addresses, and outputs a best-guess set of latitude and longitude coordinates for each. These coordinates can then, of course, be plotted as a map, which I have done using ggplot2. (This post briefly illustrates a simple version of a similar application.)

The map at the beginning of this post illustrates the distribution of commenter locations in the continental U.S. (with a conic projection). The map included below depicts commenter locations across the globe (with a Mollweide projection). It is not clear the extent to which we can use commenter locations to make inferences about the whole population of HASTAC members, but we can see from these simple maps that is indeed a global community.

* But we would love it if you would! Just go to, make sure that you are logged in, click the big orange "EDIT PROFILE" link, click "Personal Information," and scroll down to expand the "Location" info fields. City, state, and zip code will give all the data we need for mapping our members. This location feature is relatively new to and we hope to make greater use of this data in the future, but currently this is only visible to site administrators. Thanks!



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1243622. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


1 comment

By the way, folks should click on these maps to get a nice zoom in.

I'm curious if HASTAC members have any initial reactions to the thought of being mapped, perhaps more explicitly than this. Would this bother you, and/or would you be intersted in using such maps yourselves?