Google Fusion Table Basics with IU’s Cushman Collection

I’ve used Indiana University’s Cushman Collection of photographs before, in my Palladio tutorial. Google Fusion tables, though, is a slightly simpler way for people to get started with data visualization. So here’s a quick tutorial that uses the same data to create a map and some simple charts.

You can also download this tutorial as a PDF or a Word document (in case you’d like to modify it).

Here’s a preview of the map we’ll make:

Google Fusion Tables is a fairly simple way to go from spreadsheet to data visualization. In this tutorial, you’ll upload a spreadsheet containing information about the Indiana University’s Cushman Collection of photographs (which you can find here) and use it to create a map and some charts.

Open Google Fusion Tables

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Go to tables.googlelabs.com

Click on “Create a Fusion Table” and sign in with your Google account

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Once you’re in, click on Choose File and then select the Cushman-Collection file. For Separator Character, keep the options as they are (with Comma selected) and then click Next. On the next screen, click Next again, and finally, click Finish.

Hey, that’s kind of cool.

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The next screen shows you your spreadsheet just as it was when you were looking at it in Excel — except Google has automatically pulled in thumbnail images for all the direct links to photographs.

Check out a map of locations

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Click on the Map of City and State tab, but — IMPORTANT — click on “Pause Geocoding” on the window that pops up. In order to place your locations on the map, you need latitudes and longitudes. Google is trying to be helpful by retrieving these for you. But that will take a long time, and actually your spreadsheet already contains this information. So we need to inform Google of this.

On the “Location” dropdown, click “Geocoordinates”

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That way Google will use the latitude and longitude data you’ve already provided.

Hey, you have a map!

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Pretty cool. You can click on each of the points to see which photo was taken there. Play with the various options to see what you get.

Share, if you want.

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You can share this map if you want! Just click on the Share button and share the map the same way you’d share a Google doc. You can also embed the map on a website by clicking on Tools and then Publish.

Make some graphs and charts.

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Let’s look at some other views of the same data. Click on the red “plus” sign on the tabs menu and select Add Chart.

Make a bar chart.

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Click on the bar chart icon and for Category, select Genre 1. Be sure to uncheck “Value: IU Archives Number” and do check the Summarize data checkbox. (An easier way to create a summary bar chart is just to choose the Summarize option when you’re opening a new tab — but this way we can switch among different chart types.)

Filter your data.

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Fusion Tables allows you to drill down into your data by filtering it. Try adding a City, State filter.

Play with other chart types.

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Use these charts to explore your dataset as you try to get a sense of its contours. Pay attention to what the data can and can’t tell you about the collection of photographs.

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