It’s 2025…what are you doing?

Imagine being asked to form a discussion group with your friends to decide what life should be like in 2025? Okay, now imagine that with no Star Trek references. Science Horizons UK is a government group asking UK citizens to do that just and submit their information to the government. Its a year long project “to explore some of the ways that our minds and bodies, our homes and communities, our work and leisure time, and people and our planet could be affected by new science and technology in the future. We will be asking people to talk about the future with each other and tell us their hopes and concerns about the way science and technology could affect our lives.” It has an animated, interactive on-line component but it’s more of a structured dialogue than a free flowing brainstorming session. Also, all the stories sort of make me laugh, look up George and his jogging cap (GPS). It might end up telling people more about what their government thinks about them, then what they think about the future of technology. As an aside Earth:2025 is also an interactive webgame and Columbia’s Earth Center developed a map predicting the worlds population change in 2025.

The Future of Mobiles in the U.K.

This BBC article on the future of mobile phones in Europe is interesting because it talks about technologies that are used in Japan and the U.S. such as “”buddy finders” that alert you when a friend is in the same area or systems that track your morning run to show you how many kilometres you have covered and how many calories you have burned” and “location-based advertising, mobile blogging, location-based games and services that will allow you to geo-tag photographs with their locations”. The article explains why these services aren’t available in Europe right now and why Europeans will have access to some of them in 2007. What was interesting to me was that these services were available in the U.S., so I did some checking to see who offers them. A Dec.2006 Newsweek article talks about “All Seeing Eyes” and what it means for personal privacy. According to Newsweek, “No nation is farther along than South Korea, where SK Telecom uses the technology to call customers strolling by its Seoul airport lounge, inviting them inside. This beckoning from out of the blue evokes the intimate “awarenessâ€? of the wireless networks depicted in “The Matrix.â€? Cool Matrix images aside, isn’t this more akin to a mesh of real life pop up ads and someone wearing a sandwich board that says ‘eat at joes’ Especially if you lent your phone to your grandmother.

Odysseus’ Real Ithaca Discovered?

My heart skipped a beat when I read that researchers might have found Homer’s real life Ithaca. The team that found it, first made their claim in the book, Odysseus Unbound. It caused an on-going controversy which helps raise the public’s interest in all facets of study including geography, classics, geology, history, archeology… I can visualize the movie version right now.

Browse a virtual newsstand

The Newseum, the interactive museum of news in Washington D.C., has a map with links to the front pages of newspapers worldwide. Its like browsing a virtual newsstand with bigger print. For example, I found that rents are set to increase by 20% in Sydney Australia. It’s another great place for news junkies to get more information, besides Very Spatial of course.

Animal Tracks

An interesting article in the BBCl on tracking snow leopards by satellite led me to other interesting sites. You can adopt a cute loggerhead turtle complete with satellite tracker on its head and a google map. “On a North Carolina beach, researchers fix satellite tracking devices on 300-pound loggerhead turtles that come ashore to lay eggs. Learning more about their migrations could help to protect them.” Space Today includes a long list of animal tracking sites including ones for elephants, manatees, whales, swans and fish. NOAA TOPP has near real time tracking. Of course, if you just want your cute overload you can go here.

Man vs. Machine

A series of articles in the U.K. Daily Mail illustrate the importance of public and media attitudes towards GIS. According to the Daily Mail, “The AA has apologised to an angry mum who they left stranded in her broken down car on a dark isolated country road after the “disgraceful” motoring organisation told them they were not on their maps…Former social worker Trish was astonished at the response of the AA who spent 15 minutes on the phone and told her the road did not exist because it was not on their computerised mapping system.”

One of the issues faced by the GIS community is that the public doesn’t separate out problems relating to the technology or the user.An operator is only as good as the data they have at hand and the training they have received. Common sense on the part of the operator doesn’t hurt either. They also don’t differentiate between types of mapping tools and how robust or accurate each tool might be. The Daily Mail follows up with a story, like John Henry and his hammer, the ‘good old fashioned road atlas’ beats out computerized mapping. The ‘good old-fashioned’ £8 AA map-book not only beat a sophisticated £220 sat-nav system – costing nearly 28 times more and getting the driver lost down “obscure” country detours – it also knocked the socks off a computer-based route-finder costing £45. The low-tech road atlas also trounced the Government’s own free online ‘Transport Direct’ website, which was by far the worst, giving motorists incorrect directions, sending them miles out of their way and taking users twice as long to get to their destination.” It then proceeds to lists problems the public has encountered with computer mapping. The GIS community needs to take these feelings and experiences into account, because they could impact them as the technology is integrated into daily life.

Unusual and Imaginary Maps

I found reference to the National Toilet Mapping Project, as well as some sites mentioned on Very Spatial such as the map of Springfield at Humbolt University. They also have links to the Lunar Real Estate Finder which matches up any address with its corresponding place on the moon, the starwars, startrek, narnia, lord of the rings,UFO sightings…. (oh heck, its a bonanza for geeky and literary universes). Lots of geospatial fun in one place.

(Note: This post is referring to a nice directory of unusual maps on the Humboldt State University Library website)

National Public Toilet Map

Although at first glance the title of the article might seem humorous, it is very important. “The Australian Government has provided $31 million to the Department of Health and Ageing, since 1999 to fund the National Continence Management Strategy program.The National Public Toilet Map Project is apart of that strategy. The National Public Toilet Map team, has been working with Councils all across Australia to keep an update o­n the toilet information. Currently 96% of all Councils that serve 9,000 out of the 14,000 public and private toilets, have successfully completed their verification.

The National Public Toilet Map was set up to provide toilet information to the estamated 3.8 million Australians who are affected by incontinence;but it is also helpful for families with small children and for people planning a road trip.” According to this article, Google, Vienna,NYC, Tokyo (humorous)and others also have toilet maps. There is also an American Restroom organization. and as always – a conference World Toilet Expo and Forum.

This is a wonderful, great civic use of GIS which probably increases the number of people out in public shopping and sightseeing.

Happy Halloween

Here are some serious and some funny uses of GIS for Halloween.

According to a Texas news report a county in Texas has seen an increased use of a sex offender database by parents around Halloween. Brazos County has developed the Bryan Geographical Information System to keep track of registered sex offenders in the county. In conjunction with local authorities the “GIS allows users to select a marked home and view photos details of the offender, plus some basic details of the offense such as age and gender of the victim. GIS Coordinator, Todd Snelgrove says the information is undated every week to ensure accurate information.”

At Auburn University GIS professionals can meet and greet this evening at a Halloween Themed social – “Halloween costumes are optional, but welcome”.

And if your looking for a new area to do research on “Despite its increasing importance as both a cultural and an economic phenomenon in a growing number of countries, Halloween remains a surprisingly under-researched and under-theorised topic in academic writing.” Why not send in a paper to Hollowe’en: International Conference. For example: Wouldn’t you expect “Hallowe’en and Social Cohesion in Urban Scotland” to have some GIS involved?

Also, GIS has an alternative meaning today GIS (Ghost Investigators Society)

Happy Halloween!

We will rock you (planetary)

There is an article in CNN today about Brian May from Queen. “He gave up his PHD studies in interplanetary dust to help form Queen but now, almost four decades on, he has come full circle to co-write “Bang! The Complete History of the Universe” with astronomers Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott. “To me it is a spiritual force in my life,” May told Reuters at the book’s London launch.” I can’t find it on Amazon yet but will put up a link as soon as I do. I found a link to his old school papers too.