Visualizing the U.S.-Mexico Border

What would it mean to try to see the entire southwest border at once?

Source: Visualizing the U.S.-Mexico Border

What does the U.S.-Mexico border really look like? Josh Begley, resident data artist for The Intercept, wasn’t sure, so he downloaded satellite photos from Google Maps for the entire international boundary. Using the resulting 200,000 images, he created a six-minute film that traces the border from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, covering 1,954 miles. The southwest border is one of the most politicized spaces in the United States, a terrain that has been reduced to an ugly political metaphor. Begley’s film reminds us that the geography of the borderlands is both vast and beautiful.

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WHAT DOES THE southern border of the United States look like?

For all the talk of “securing the border” and “building a wall,” there is surprisingly little visual material that conveys just how vast this stretch of space is.

In total, the U.S.-Mexico border spans 1,954 miles. According to Google Maps, it would take 34 hours to drive its entire length. In places, there already is a border fence — more than 650 miles of it. Pushed and pulled by various forces, some 1 million people are estimated to pass through the official ports of entry every day.

But what does the geography of this landscape look like? Is it industrial? Desolate? Populated? All of the above?

Using the geographic coordinates of the international boundary line, in addition to location data for the existing border fence (which has been mapped by journalists at NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting), I wrote a small computer script to download satellite imagery for the entire border.

I ended up with about 200,000 images.

Using a command-line tool called ffmpeg, I programmatically stitched the images together, and then worked with Laura Poitras and her team at Field of Vision to edit them into a short film. Jace Clayton, the artist and author known as DJ /rupture, developed an original score for the piece.

Read the full post and see the video here: https://theintercept.com/2016/10/26/best-of-luck-with-the-wall/

 

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