Tag Archives: visualization

What is Virtual Alabama?

Virtual Alabama logoEarlier today, al.com/The Birmingham News reported about the called work session for the Birmingham Board of Education scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. One of the items to be discussed is Virtual Alabama.

So, what is it?

The service has operated internally since 2006 (and publicly since late 2007), a project that’s grown out of the state’s department of homeland security. It’s built on Google Earth’s enterprise solution, meaning it’s pretty powerful. It’s access is limited to local, county, and state government offices and associated agencies.

What is it capable of doing?

Perhaps this video created in 2008 by Google Business as a case study can help shed some light on what it’s done already – and maybe get folks to imagine just what the potential importance to the state will be as it continues to be refined.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-1I0JTWiIY?w=625]

A post published on the Google Enterprise blog back in 2009 touts how its gone on to serve as an inspiration to other states. The platform has received increased attention recently, in part due to the tragedy in Newtown, CT, and its ability to help officials craft a school safety systems for districts statewide. It’s something already utilized by the University of Montevallo.

How rich or poor is your block?

Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks   Neighborhood income maps of U.S. cities-120115That’s the question this recently launched web app attempts to help you answer. Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks uses the U.S. Census Bureau’s definitions for median household income and the results of the 2006-2010 American Community Survey to create a visual representation for you. Clicking on any point on the map will provide you with the information, while the state’s median income in 2010 dollars is visible in the lower right corner.

The map can be searched either by metro area or by specific address. It’s interesting to note the range of median household incomes throughout metro Birmingham. It’s also been an eye-opening experience to see the commentary accompanying the sharing of the site in other cities across the country, including Dallas, TX (courtesy of the folks at FrontBurner); Washington, DC (by way of The Daily Viz); and Berkley, CA (via the fine folks at Berkleyside).

The tracts are somewhat misleading if you’re looking at it for trends. Besides recognized issues with the margin of error contained in the data used, there’s also the fact that some of these tracts just don’t have that many residences inside their boundaries. The map shows Census tract 27 in Jefferson County as having a median household income of $15,806. The tract includes Birmingham’s central business district, Railroad Park, the BJCC and the city’s automotive district; it also includes the city’s loft district.

It’s still a pretty powerful image and one worth exploring on your own.