The Geography of Twitter

The Switch writer, Caitlin Dewey, reviewed a recent study on Twitter in her article on “Where do Twitter trends start? Try Cincinnati” for the Washington Post.  It summarizes a study done at Indiana University on where Twitter topics trend and spread.  It found that Twitter trends that start in Cincinnati tend to spread out and reach other cities more than would have been thought for a city of that size. It concluded that physical geography has an impact on social media, which is often popularly thought of as transcending geographic location, by everyone but geographers and geospatial scientists – or do they? It turns out that The Geography of Twitter is a trending topic itself in the research world. Continue reading “The Geography of Twitter”

Remote Sensing as Art

A few years ago, I ran across a fun website, called Be My Satellite, which promotes geoliteracy through collaborative satellite image-hacking. It is a type of large scale art installment that uses the spatial pixel grid as a creative tool, typically for Google satellite views.   Another type of satellite art uses prints of images cut from Google Satellite View, Jenny Odell is a well known artist in this medium. Google Earth has generated many new types of art and revived others.  Google Earth Art blog asks if Google Earth is the inspiration that revival landscape painting needs. Other artists and photographers, such as Mishka Henner featured in DPReview are creating open-source art from Google Earth images that provide new perspective about life on Earth – much like geospatial analysis. While in late October, Clyde Space and iam8bit is releasing an Andy Warhol-inspired satellite created by artists Jon Gibson and Amanda White into space, making it the first space art installment.

Therefore, when a local artist told me that she had been experimenting with large scale art that you can only view from the air, I got excited. I told her that she was talking about geo-spatial art and that it was an actual movement in the art world. I was able to discuss geographic information science, remote sensing, satellites, NASA, Google, and the crossover of geospatial technologies and art.  It is always enjoyable when the topics that you like discussing and those that a friend enjoy discussing coincide – no matter how seemingly esoteric.  The next step is to use one of the many satellite trackers to identify a potential satellite and ArcGIS to mock up the installation. The hard part will be the attempts to align the two up just right – which  makes art and geospatial technologies a challenge.

Meta-Data, Locality, and WV-Gate

This past week, Democrat Natalie Tennant announced her run for Senate and it was covered by the Washington Post, “Natalie Tennant Officially Launches Senate Campaign in West Virginia“. However, the big news wasn’t her political platform, but rather the fact that her campaign video uses stock footage of a college campus – not West Virginia University, where she attended college, or another WV institute of higher learner but that of college rival, University of Pittsburgh. Twitter feeds in West Virginia lit up as people, who know their own local and feel very proud of it, pointed out the potential goof. Republican campaigners were quick to take to Twitter to denounce the mistake, but many did so by referencing The University of West Virginia or other variations that were not the correct place name of West Virginia University. A repeat of the cycle happened, Twitter feeds lit up again, as people who know their own local and feel very proud of it, pointed out the potential goof. After a day or two the whole thing died down and has mostly been forgotten.

As geo-spatial professionals, who sometimes work on projects outside the scope of our specific local knowledge, we can probably all sympathize with both mistakes – not choosing stock photos wisely and not double checking specific place names. However, as this incident and other incidents like it illustrate, it is often important to weigh the cost of double checking meta-data, when available, versus the cost of having to deal with the fallout if anyone notices a discrepancy that is important to them because they know the area very well.

To quote, former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill, “All politics is local”, which makes meta-data a politically charged issue that needs to be carefully considered when trying to reach the public.

Voyager 1 Has Left The Solar System….. Probably. Maybe. We Think

Honestly it’s like the space scientist equivalent of watching Lindsey Lohan.  Has it left?  When did it leave?  Is it still here?  Is it long gone?  I can’t stop obsessing about this news.  It appears Voyager 1 left the solar system quit some time ago (around April), IF plasma density is to be believed.  The heart of the problem is plasma density isn’t constant.  Quite understandably plasma is hotter nearer the sun, which means it is less dense.  Therefore the calculations were all wrong and Voyager 1 is outta here already.  Or maybe.  Who knows?  I don’t completely understand it, to be honest.

All I know is that I simply can NOT get enough of this story.  This is great, nail biting science going on here.  It’s like assessing the effects of the no strikes touch down rule in the NHL (or some such controversial sports rule analogy that I neither know anything about nor understand).