Working with geographical Data. Part 1: Simple National Infomaps


There is a popular expression in my country called “Gastar polvora en chimangos”, whose translation in English would be “spending gunpowder in chimangos”. Chimango is a kind of bird whose meat is useless for humans. So “spending gunpowder in chimangos” stands for spending a lot of money, time, effort, etc. in something not worth of it. This is of course an undesirable thing in any aspect of our lives, but I think it is crucial in the case of work: when a task that should be easy takes more effort than expected, we begin to have a “snowball effect” where the rest of the tasks get delayed as well. This redunds, as we all know, in staying up late and stressed to finish the tasks we planned for an 8-hour journey.

As you can see by googling, there are millions of packages, methods, contents, strategies, etc to work with geographical Data in R. In this series of post, I will present some of them, directly taken from my own experience. I will try to follow an increasing difficulty order. Of course, the more complex methods are more flexible and provide more alternatives.

In this case, we will keep it really simple and draw an infomap of a part of South America. Infomaps are very useful as they are widely spread and clear way of interpreting Data related to geographical zones. Infomaps have a double advantage: They are very clear to understand, but, as it is not feasible to do it easily in Excel, it is always impactful if you include one in a presentation.

Below you will find the R Code for a really simple approach. I hope you like it. Any comments, corrections or critics please write!!

library (‘RColorBrewer’)

DB <- as.matrix(c(‘Argentina’, ‘Brazil’, ‘Chile’, ‘Uruguay’, ‘Paraguay’, ‘Bolivia’, ‘Peru’))

#add population-density Data

DB <- cbind (DB, c(15,23,22,19,17,10,24))

#create a gradual palette of Reds. Function belongs to RColorBrewer

gama <- brewer.pal(6,”Reds”)
countries <- as.character(DB[,1])

# with the cut function you can assign numeric values to a certain interval defined by the user (in this case 0,5,10,15,20,max(DB))

DB <- cbind(DB, cut (as.numeric(DB[,2]),c(0,5,10,15,20,max(DB)),labels = FALSE, right = TRUE))

#With the ordinal values assigned to each country, we now create a character array with the colour code corresponding to each of them, based upon the palette we have created

col <- character()

for (i in 1:nrow(DB))
col <- append(col,gama[as.numeric(DB[i,3])])

#We draw the map. Please note that the arrays countries and col need to be maintained in the same order. If not, the colour assigned to each country will be wrong. So, be careful if you need to sort the values of any array before plotting.

map(‘worldHires’,countries,fill=TRUE,col=col,plot=TRUE, cex = 15, exact=TRUE)
legend(“bottomright”, c(“up to 15”, “16 – 17”, “18 – 19”, “20-21”, “22-23”, “more than 23”),border=gama, fill = gama, cex = 1.3, box.col = “white”)

#Although RStudio (I do not know of other interfaces) provides an interface option to import a plot to a file, if you have to export the map, I would advise doing it per CLI, as the sizes and proportions are much easier to handle. In this case, it would be as follows:

png(file= (your Path),width = (width in pixels), height = (height in pixels), res = 120)
map(‘worldHires’,countries,fill=TRUE,col=col,plot=TRUE, cex = 15, exact=TRUE)
legend(“bottomright”, c(“up to 15”, “16 – 17”, “18 – 19”, “20-21”, “22-23”, “more than 23”),border=gama, fill = gama, cex = (the size you want for the box), box.col = “white”)

This is the final result


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5 Responses to Working with geographical Data. Part 1: Simple National Infomaps

  1. Pingback: Working with geographical Data. Part 1: Simple National Infomaps | Nutrientes esenciales para el espíritu

  2. Blaquans says:

    This is very nice. I think you can share it on the R Programming Wikibooks ( Wikibook is similar to wikipedia but for handbooks. It is very nice for learning and sharing your programming tricks. I’ve been developping the R programming wikibooks alone for a few years. I would be happy to collaborate with other people. You can add it on the data visualisation page :

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