It’s that time of year again. If you are in North America are you ready to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count February 12 – 15th? Each year “citizen scientists” helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,the National Audubon Society , and Bird Studies Canada learn more about bird population and migration creating the largest map of bird populations ever recorded. You only have to observe for 15 minutes and the GBBC site provides downloadable tally sheets of birds in your region. This year after reading a great article in the New York Times on landfills and bird diversity, I am participating in it along with several recycling centers and landfills in our state. I was inspired by the landfill bird blog hosted by a Wildlife Control Biologist on a landfill in Kentucky. His pictures are stunning. Other “citizen scientist” bird counts include the UK Big Garden Birdwatch (January 30 -31), Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count (December 14 – January 5) which is the largest and oldest at 110 years old, and Cornell’s eBird which is a year round on-line bird count from citizen scientists around the world.
Before there was Avatar and even before Fisher-Price Viewmaster, there was stereoscopy or stereo photographs that presented scenes in life-like three dimensions similar to a Viewmaster. A recent book on one set of Stereoscopic photos of 1850’s village life titled “A Village Lost and Found”. It is a picture book that evokes the Victorian times of a specific village through a series of 3-D images meticously gathered over a lifetime of research. But one of the most fascinating aspects of the work is its relevance to geospatial and social networking technologies today. The authors, Brian May and spent years searching to determine if the village was a composite of multiple villages or a specific location, but it wasn’t until 2003 that they asked for help through the Interent community and someone responded with a, “Well, I live there” that it was solved. How many other geographical mysteries big and small have been solved or are waiting to be solved by the world’s increased connectivity?
It’s hard to believe that Fisher-Price View-Master reels are over 65 years old and kids are still playing with them. Even with the advent of hi-tech toys for kids, the View-Finder still produces inexpensive reels ($4.00) of Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob, and old Disney Classics. The red classic model is around $15.00. Accoding to The View-Master Ultimate Reel List over one billion View-Master reels have been issued since this unique stereophotographic format was invented and first commercially released in 1939. It was originally intended for travelogue/scenic subjects such as Carlsbad Caverns and other travel geography. According to author Natalie Bell, the View-Master and stereoscopic images in general “The View-
Master exists now a relic of the modern epoch; as a retrospective instrument that is itself an
archetype of a way of seeing.”
I found an interesting RFP today from NOAA that asks for research into “the effectiveness of current operational products, including graphics and uncertainty information”. Essentially it is asking a geospatial question, do our graphics work and do they tell you what you need to know. The geospatial compenent of weather forecasting is more involved than most users would imagine. The BBC has a Faq to explain why they went to 3D weather graphics. In 2008, The Weather Channel went HD and they continue to add tools and widgets. There is even a Facebook page called “I love the Weather Channel Graphics” with a plot of “”Using flashy graphics and smooth jazz to distract from a clear weather bias.” which is apparantly populated with their admins. NOAA has links to national weather data available in GIS formats, if you want to explore more.
I just came out of a very interesting dissertation defense on emergence and the geograpy of religion. One of the most interesting was the Glenmary Research Center data which is one of the only religious data centes in the U.S. The other being the Pew Foundation Forum on Religion & Public Life. His topic was “A Leap of Faith: Scale, Critical Realism, and Emergence in the Geography of Religion” Which I won’t go into detail about here other than to highlight this interesting fact. West Virginia is among the underreported Appalachia’s because on maps it shows up as being largely unchurched but as anyone who lives there knows is comprised of many, many small independent churches. This was just one of the interesting things I learned during his discussion. The other was about a small county in South Dakota that is registered as the largest Episcopalian community in the U.S. but is actually predominantly native American with only one Episcopal Church. If you haven’t checked out the Geography of Religon (GOR) you should, it is fascinating. In the Dictionary of Critical Realism, there is a chapter on Geography of Religion written by the now Dr. Ferber. The AAG (American Association of Geographers) also has a Geography of Religion (GOR) group. Great Job! Dr.Ferber
It’s not THE VATICAN but ruminate on how much geospatial data must be stored in The Vatican Microfilm Library and Pius XII Library in St. Louis that house the largest collection of manuscripts on microfilm outside the Vatican. They have a NEH and Mellon Fellowship for $1,750.00 per five-week period to visit the library but it is only open to graduates and post-graduates. You are probably saying to yourself, “Microfilm?” but they seem to have some digital material that may only be consulted in the reading room. The Vatican has many famous maps including the Gallery of Maps which were painted in the 1500’s.
The Earth and Space Foundation has an awesome but low funded award program to “funds expeditions that either use Earth’s resources and environments to help us understand other worlds and assist in the exploration of space or expeditions that use space technology and data to help us understand and care for the Earth’s environment”. It brings up a fun discussion point that I have had with many geographers. Is there still a need for Earth expiditions? There must be because there is Expidition Quest, an online community of explorers and adventurers chock full of them. Plus I know several hardy and adventuresome people who have gone to Antartica as part of NSF antartic sciences. Which not many people know is open to any U.S. citizen.
Other questions we have discussed included, “You know they are going to need interstellar geospatial specialists to go into space, would you go? Would you still go if you knew you wouldn’t come back? Has the geospatial field progressed far enough to make this possible?” I am just waiting for the awesome movie to come out based on the first interstellar cartographers. You know someone always has to be first in uncharted territory. or is that going to be done by technology from now on? Interstellar studies is already an expanding field.
TreeHugger posted about the 300 Years of global climate change on one map. The best quote is “”In late 2009 the UK Government launched an Open Data initiative, headed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, along with a call for innovations challenging the developer community to make this data more accessible. In response, Geo.me Solutions is showcasing a number of concept demonstrations using map-based visualisations.” – Sir Tim Berners-Lee inventor of the World Wide Web.
TV Tropes is a great wiki that catalogs all the tropes inherent in media, literature, and games. They have several geovisual subjects including television geography such as “Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke manage to get everywhere in Vienna, despite only spending only one night there.” They cover Hollywood Atlas or the stereotypical Hollywood geography and “You Fail Geography Forever” for truly egregious errors. I enjoyed “The Patchwork Map” which discusses fictional geography. The GIS version is “The Big Board” and the Ominous Multiple Screens “which is the villainous version. Usually. “
I just read a weird article about “Some Ways to Make Children Think Santa Exists” that includes children follow Santa’s journey on Norad all the way up to a voice transmorgified phone call from Santa. Like “How to Lie With Maps“, it unitentionally raises some questions about how kids are influenced by technology. I would consider kids today to be more savvy than 1897 “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” or the kids (and adults) who believed in the Cottingly Fairies that were created using the new “photograph” technology. I think that GIS can enhance holiday experienes by tracking Santa, making family trees, showing hometowns, and generally intergrating it into everyday life. I am not so sure about voice changers.