Georgia is known for it's peaches; Idaho for it's potatoes; and Vermont for it's syrup. But what about my community? What do farmers and gardeners down the road from me do best? When I visit a new town, what is the local speciality on the menu? The mapping of food-community associations, utilizing social media meta-data coupled with geographic visualization techniques, can both empower communities and lead to significant swelling in local agriculture economies.
I would prefer to buy my corn from an Iowa farm. My family grew corn in that state for generations; and experience has told me that it tastes best. Similarly, Wisconsinites overwhelmingly prefer their cheese, Baltimoreans their crab, and the French their wine. Although these associations may appear only surface level, they have a powerful effect on the two notions at play in this challenge. Many communities around the world still define themselves by the food they grow. The struggle and innovation surrounding food producing practices can bond individuals into a community. Secondly, food-community associations are powerful market forces in the modern consumer economy. Buying Florida orange juice or German beer demands a premium price, and this commodity is central to the emergence of agriculture markets.
These associations are vast, and at short hand are usually at a large geographic level. However, technology can be leveraged to enhance this picture. Instead of static associations, we can use twitter hashtag data and google search trends to dynamically map food-community associations. Similar to
using meta data to identify illness outbreaks
, we can do the same for our food; another key health determinant. Toolkits such as the
google analytics API
, and the
library could easily be combined to produce compelling visualizations of food-community associations. This task could easily be accomplished in a a few weeks with collaboration of a handfull of coders collaborating over distance. What trends would emerge? Imagine the ability to over-lay a food map as you travel on vacation. The more open and accesible food data becomes, food-community associations will become stronger.