There are a lot of cats in the world, and there are a lot of cats on the Internet. These two facts—one a longstanding reality, the other a longstanding cliche—often collide with each other in predictable ways. And sometimes in less predictable ways. Did you ever think, for example, that someone would take the time to locate the many cats of the world on a digital map?
Well, someone has.
Owen Mundy, an artist, designer, and programmer who teaches at Florida State University, recently published "I Know Where Your Cat Lives," a project that tracks the world's cats—or, well, 1 million of those cats—on, yep, an interactive world map.
To make his cat-map, Mundy used data provided by cat owners—and/or cat fanciers generally—themselves. Humans, when they post a picture of their cats on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or what have you, often add a "cat" tag to the image to clarify, organize, connect with other cat-fanciers, etc. That tag is the key piece of information Mundy used for the project. He accessed photo-sharing sites' publicly available APIs, searching for those "cat" tags, and then ran the results through clustering algorithms (using, he notes, "a supercomputer at Florida State University in order to represent the enormity of the data source"). Then, he "located" the cats through the latitude and longitude coordinates embedded in the metadata of the photos that depict them.