Kai Biermann, Paul Blickle, Astrid Geisler, Flavio Gortana, Tom Lazar, Dr. Andreas Loos, Fabian Mohr, Karsten Polke-Majeweski, Julian Stahnke, Alexa Steinbrück, Sascha Venohr and Andreas Zeidler
Streets and squares are an archive of both language and history. We suspected that their names would reveal patterns, and we wanted to make them visible. Doing such a thing is impossible using conventional map tools because none of them will show you all of the streets and squares of the same name at the same time.That is why ZEIT ONLINE programmed a searchable database including all German streets and squares. By doing so, we discovered some fascinating patterns in the distribution of the 450,000 street names. They tell the story of almost forgotten artists and historical events, they shed light on obsolete economic structures and trade routes, on dialects and on idioms imported from abroad. Additionally, we identified groups of streets with thematically linked terms like the names of poets or types of animals. Beyond that, for example, we searched for all the possible endings to a street name, like Limes Road, Limes Way, Limes Alley or Limes Lane for discernible name components like -limes. All streets with the same root name were then tested to see if there were linked groups of streets on a local level. This enabled us to uncover other patterns.
What makes this project innovative?
Although there are countless route planners and navigational devices out there that can be used to find individual streets or addresses, this new database is a novelty for its ability to allow users to analyze all German street names using search terms and to generate a graphic illustration of their regional distribution. On top, we worked together with our colleagues from our sister, the weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT, to show some very interesting distribution patterns in the printed edition (packed as a quiz page).
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
On top of a high-level reach we noticed that our story had an above average viral impact. People loved to use the searchable database, finding "their street" and share their findings. We made it easy, to share the search results, by implementing a built-in share function. This function passes a "ready-made" image with the patterns of streets to Twitter and Facebook, including a deeplink to the search result.
Source and methodology
The foundation of our tool is OpenStreetMap, a map wiki where volunteers collect information on all streets around the world.Using the Overpass_API via http://overpass-turbo.eu/ we could see first pattern, i.e. that streetnames with (Paul von) Hindenburg are only left in Germanys western parts.Using that information, the Karlsruhe-based service provider Geofabrik created a dataset for us including all streets and squares in Germany (current as of Oct. 10, 2017). It includes the respective street names, the postal codes and communities through which the streets lead, and the precise geometry of the route taken by the street. Geofabrik also combined multiple data points from OpenStreetMap to create a single, coherent data object accurately reflecting the street\'s geometry.You can download the data here in GeoJSON format: http://interactive.zeit.de/2017/strassennamen/datensatz_deutsche_strassennamen.zip