I'm a geographer. Among others, I'm interested in

— geographic information science and information visualization,

— user-generated content and social networks,

— open data and open technology, as well as

— the political and societal changes and questions that arise from these.

I like to combine my curiosity with societal goals such as openness, fairness and accessibility. I pursue my interests in my work for Ernst Basler + Partners and the Oxford Internet Institute as well as in my private life.

I publish observations, thoughts, and my projects on my blog Spatialists.


Contact me for any questions:


Ralph Straumann


+41 79 235 31 91


I'm listed on the following platforms:

LinkedIn and Xing


Google Scholar

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For keeping up with news, consider subscribing to
— my personal blog,
— the Geoinformatics and Data Analysis blog of Ernst Basler + Partners, and
— the Information Geographies project blog of the Oxford Internet Institute.


I mapped the profile locations of followers of the GeoHipster Twitter account. GeoHipster is a community website with a fantastic collection of interviews with members of the geo-, mapping- and GI-crowds.

This GeoBeer #8 talk is about the shift from data scarcity to abundance and some traps posed primarily by a frequent kind of data: namely the data that is crowdsourced using smart devices, wearables and embedded sensors.

The Swiss Beer Map celebrates Swiss beer culture. It's inspired by co-organising the GeoBeer series for geo-professionals. I augmented the initial Wikipedia data and users can submit their own suggestions.

The geocoded articles in Wikipedia across 44 languages are very unevenly distributed. This project analyses this pattern that features 50% of all articles in Western and Central Europe – 2.5% of the world's land area.

This project visualises the terms Google Autocomplete associates with different countries. The results show how Google can actively shape the knowledge we obtain about different parts of the world.

Wikipedia doesn't yet fulfill its promise as a repository of all human knowledge. This map visualises Wikipedia in Africa and tries to understand the observed spatial imbalance of information and knowledge (re)production.

In the wake of the crackdown on Turkey's #direngeziparki movement, I made this map of protests in Turkey and abroad. The data is pulled from a news platform and Wikipedia and displayed using Leaflet.

Somewhere between dataviz and art, Zurich Sky displays the color of the sky over Zurich throughout the years. The colours are taken from a web-cam feed (making-of). Zurich Sky has been featured in NZZ.

A hexagonal cartogram, a map and a bar plot about population sizes of Swiss cities and cantons, implemented in D3 (making-of). This piece has been featured in NZZ, among others.

An analysis of Flickr data: Which parts of a city are visited and photographed by how many people how often throughout the course of a day? Video of an animation I programmed in Processing.

A simple thought experiment. Imagine: Switzerland as one of the world's city states: What area would the population occupy at the density of, say, Hongkong, Singapore, Manhattan?

Semi-automatic Twitter community discovery and network mapping: As a case-study, I derived the network of Swiss GI professionals. I published the results on my company's blog (in German).

Investigation of the Twitter network of journalists. Acquiring the data from the Twitter API and mapping it in Gephi, reveals structures in this extraordinarily dense network.

A small introduction to spatial data viz in the Processing framework. The end result is a simple static map of postal codes obtained from Geonames (and the starting point for the ZIP scribble maps).

After the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan, I made this analysis of the population density around nuclear power stations in Switzerland and published a report on it (in German).

ZIP scribble maps depict spatial patterns that result from travelling through post codes in ascending order. I made ZIP scribble maps of Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland based on Geonames data and using Processing.

For the University of Zurich I made a set of 3D geovisualisations of a wind farm and of a terrain parameter. You can see these by visiting the Advanced GIScience course website and refreshing the page repeatedly.

An animation of 2009 earthquakes done in Processing and exported to a video on Vimeo. Earthquakes are binned according to their latitude and longitude for displaying marginal histograms.

Using market studies by Infras I visualised the GIS market of Switzerland and its development from various perspectives. The posters are available in two colour schemes: green-blue and red-blue on white.

“Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.”
— Waldo Tobler


Since March 2013
Research Assistant at Oxford Internet Institute (part-time), University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Since October 2010
GIS and Business Intelligence Consultant at Ernst Basler + Partner, Zurich, Switzerland

PhD in Geographic Information Science Division, Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Internships and part-time employments as GIS Analyst and Coach at Ernst Basler + Partner, Swissphoto Group, Spectraseis and ASE

MSc in Geography, Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland, with minors in Cartography, Political Science, Mathematics and Geology

High-School Diploma, Kantonsschule am Burggraben, St. Gallen, Switzerland


I co-organise GeoBeer, an informal meetup of GIS and GIScience students and professionals all over Switzerland.

I have given a keynote presentation at ewz (September 2013), and invited talks at the Opendata.ch 2012 Conference (June 2012) and at the Esri/Geocom GIS Day (November 2009).

I'm founding member of Opendata.ch, the Swiss open data advocacy group, and one of the founders of SoMePolis, a research project focusing on the social media use of Swiss politicians.

I have reviewed for the International Journal of Geographical Information Science (IJGIS), Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS), The Visual Computer, GeoProcessing 2010 and GEOWS 2009.

“[W]e need to reject the extremely resilient ‘Euclidean’ notions, still implicitly underlying many treatments of the geographies of information technology, that treat spaces and places simply as bounded areas, as definable, Cartesian spatial objects, embedded within some wider, objective framework of time-space.
      As Doreen Massey suggests, places need to be defined in relational terms, too, as ‘articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings’ rather than as ‘areas with boundaries around’.”
— Stephen Graham, 1998


Leiss I, Straumann R & Meyer R, 2015, Nachhaltige Verfügbarkeit und Archivierung von Geodaten. Konzeptstudie zur koordinierten Umsetzung bei Bund, Kantonen und Gemeinden (Long-term availibility and archiving of geodata. Conceptual study regarding the implementation in Swiss federal, state and municipal governments). SIK-GIS/CSI-SIG

Straumann RK, Çöltekin A & Andrienko G, 2014, Towards (re)constructing narratives from georeferenced photographs through visual analytics. The Cartographic Journal

Graham M, Hogan B, Straumann RK & Medhat A, 2014, Uneven geographies of user-generated information: Patterns of increasing informational poverty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers
pdf, link

Straumann RK, 2013, The Swiss GIS community in the virtual space (published in German, French and Italian; not refereed). Geomatik Schweiz, 111(8): 441–448
links to online versions: German, French, Italian

Bektaş K, Çöltekin A & Straumann RK, 2012, Survey of True 3D and raster level of detail support in GIS software. Lecture Notes in Geoinformation & Cartography. Buchroithner M (ed.): True-3D in Cartography, 43–65

Logean A, Lavrovsky O, Straumann RK & Gassner P, 2012, Sustainability through open data: Examples from Switzerland. Proceedings of EnviroInfo 2012
pdf, link

Straumann RK & Purves RS, 2011, Computation and elicitation of valleyness. Spatial Cognition and Computation, 11(2): 178–204
pdf, link

Straumann RK, 2010, Extraction and characterisation of landforms from Digital Elevation Models: Fiat parsing the elevation field. PhD Thesis, University of Zurich, Department of Geography.
high-quality pdf (66mb), pdf (22mb), University of Zurich repository

Straumann RK & Korup O, 2009, Quantifying postglacial sediment storage at the mountain-belt scale. Geology, 37(12): 1079–1082
pdf, link

Purves RS, Gruber S, Straumann RK & Hengl T (eds.), 2009, Proceedings of Geomorphometry 2009, 31 August – 2 September 2009, Zurich, Switzerland

Straumann RK & Purves RS, 2008, Delineation of valleys and valley floors. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 5266. Cova TJ, Miller HJ, Beard K, Frank AU & Goodchild MF (eds): Geographic Information Science, Proceedings of GIScience 2008, 320–336
pdf, link

Straumann RK & Purves RS, 2007, Resolution sensitivity of a compound terrain derivative as computed from LiDAR-based elevation data. Lecture Notes in Geoinformation & Cartography. Fabrikant SI & Wachowicz M (eds): The European Information Society – Leading the Way with Geo-Information, Proceedings of AGILE 2007, 87–109
pdf, link

This list is a selection of my publications.
Except where noted, publications have been refereed.