Today’s College Freshman and the Geospatial World

Beloit College has released their 2012 list of things that new college freshman have known their whole lives, besides making some of us feel very old, it gives a good overview of the geospatial world today. According to the list, today’s freshman class was generally born in 1990, which would put them in the 1990-1999 GIS history timeline created by the GIS Timeline team at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis.   The geospatial elements on the list are a mixture of funny and humbling : 3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego, 4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available, 43. Personal privacy has always been threatened, 51. Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born, and 54. The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.

The Mindset List has been compiled by authors, Ron Nief, Emeritus Director of Public Affairs at Beloit College and Tom McBride, Keefer Professor of the Humanities at Beloit College since 1998 to “reflect the world view of entering first year students” born in 1980. They provide suggestions on how the 2016 Mindset List can be used to start conversations and dialogues with students.  In case you were wondering, the class of 2016 have always lived in cyberspace so to them working in the cloud is the natural progression of the technology they have always known.

URISA looks to build management initiative

Apparently, while at the Esri UC, URISA has announced their new Geospatial Management Initiative (GMI). You may recall that we have heard about the Geospatial Management Competency Model (GMCM) that is being developed to join the GTCM to lay out the roles of geospatial professionals. URISA sees the GMI as a way to build a Geospatial Management Body of Knowledge in order to act as a straw-man document for the GMCM (much as the previous GIS&T Body of Knowledge acted for the GTCM).

We will be sure to head over to the URISA booth tomorrow and see if we can get more details from Wendy and the gang.

Head over to the URISA website to read the press release.

We Give Directions Differently Depending on Where We Live

Europeans and Americans just give directions differently. Who knew? Researchers conducted an experiment to see if people gave directions differently if they thought the person was driving verses looking at a map. Turns out that while that does have an impact, where you’re from has a larger impact on how you describe directions. Americans tend to give directions by saying street names and giving cardinal directions, e.g. “Go North on Main St”. Europeans tend to give directions by saying the number of streets to go and whether to go left or right, e.g. “Go up two streets, then take a left”. The article proposes a number of theories as to why this might be the case, but they don’t actually test any of them fully. Still, it’s a pretty interesting finding, I think. Also, it’s yet another point suggesting that I’m secretly European and didn’t know it 🙂

Spatial role-playing and virtual immersion

It is interesting to find that there are many types of spatial immersion projects going on this summer. They provide a good contrast of how creative people can be with spatial immersion as an educational tool and the importance of experiencing an environment to understanding it in a new way.

The original Virtual Trillium Trail was a virtual ecological environment created by Maria C.R. Harrington as part of her dissertation research in Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. It is represents real world field trips offered by the Audubon Society of Western PA and uses the Pennsylvania Department of Education Ecology Standards. Virtual Trillium Trail has been posted on KickStarter to try to get funding to make it into an online game.

School of Architecture for All (SARCHA) Polypolis is a role playing social simulation that covers different areas of current events. They are currently presenting “Polypolis Athens: Become an Athenian and experience a city in crisis” for the upcoming London Festival of Architecture on June 23-July 8. The theme of the festival is The Playful City and Polypolis is billed as a Playful social simulation, but is playful in the way that serious games allow users to play in a immersive sandbox.

Role-playing and immersion are always great educational tools; virtually or in real life. I have always enjoyed having students create their own role-play activities to share with classmates. I think that both k-12 students and adults respond well to role-pay as an educational activity. A paper on role-playing as an educational technique from 1958 sums it up well, ” Dramatic play has been enjoyed by children- and adults too, if you will — throughout the ages. It is a natural and spontaneous way of learning, but only comparatively recently have educators come to realize its worth as a teaching device.”

Of course, Sue Bergeron and Jesse Rouse have done more than talk about the role of technology, such as the contributions of GIS, to making what educators dreamed about in 1958 possible. There is a good quote from  “Engaging the Virtual Landscape: Serious gaming environments as tools in historical landscape reconstruction and interpretation ”  that says, “Utilizing game functionality we can add sounds, smells, and other sensory input that would be part of such landscapes, and users can begin to experience phenomena that in combination creates a sense of place. ”  It is nice to see how role-playing has evolved as technology and spatial knowledge has evolved. It will be interesting to see what people come up with next.

 

Climate Models Ignored by Media

Ars Technica is reporting an interesting article for science, I think. Researchers at George Mason University have looked at climate reporting in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today between 1998 and 2010 to see how often climate change models are referenced. The answer? A depressingly few number of times – 100 out of 4,000. Why does it matter? Well, how can anyone really understand the conclusions without at least understanding some of the methodology that went into the conclusion? Without understanding the utility of models in general and climate change models in particular, it is all too easy to cast aside climate change as junky science.

If you ask me, irrespective of the climate change debate, I fear we don’t do enough to explain the science behind the conclusions, particularly with highly politically charged issues like climate change. It seems a bit disingenuous to me that we would present one argument without explaining the logic behind it. It is then up to the reader to decide which argument makes more sense to them. At the very least, we potentially raise scientific knowledge among the general population, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Counting the True Cost of Coal

Obviously being a native West Virginian and living in the state, this is an issue near and dear to my heart.  Ars Technica does a wonderful job of summing up a bit of research presented last month at American Association for the Advancement of Science last month.  Here are the bullet points: an estimated 20-30 atomic bombs worth of energy each year to get at the coal; 500 mountain peaks gone; 2,000 miles of streams gone; and the ‘extra’ cost including medical impacts, environmental impacts, and social impacts effectively doubles the energy cost of coal.   There are clear place in these studies to challenge assumptions that arrived at the extra cost of coal.  However, I think its an interesting geographic question to move beyond the cost of raw materials to look at the impacts of surrounding areas.  We don’t tend to think much about our electricity beyond the socket in our wall.  That’s not to say I think coal is evil, nor do I think it’s completely benign.  It’s complicated and any research that can get us to think about the messy state of electricity generation in the US is beneficial research in my book.\

Photo courtesy of DanaK~WaterPenny via Flickr

Panoramic View of Angel Falls, Venezuela

We’ve featured AirPano before on the site, but a set they’ve put up just took my breath away.  They have a wonderful 360 degree air panoramic of Angel Falls in Venezuela.  You can see these falls from the base on up to the top of the waterfall.  The waterfall drops water nearly a half a mile to the ground.  It’s just amazing.  I really liked being able to start at the bast of the fall and virtually travel up via helicopter to the top.  If you’re really interested in some of the details of the shoot, the link also has a bit of a pholoblog of the shoot and the area.

Unfortunately most of us won’t have the opportunity to see majestic sites like this in person, so effort
s like the AirPano project can really help us see our amazing world in ways never before possible.  Not everything on the site is geographic (the ‘being a sandwich‘ one is kinda quirky), but the vast majority cover sites around the globe.  Take some time to explore what they have – I think you’ll be blown away by the sites.

Earth Microbiome Project

An article by Alan Boyle in MSNBC’s Cosmic Log discusses How Scientist’s Map the World’s Microbes.  The Earth Microbiome Project is a project to collect and analyze microbial communities from areas around the world and map them to their region of origin. In the project website’s own words it is going to be a “massively multidisciplinary effort to analyze microbial communities across the globe”,  which requires a large scale coordinated field work effort. However, creating an atlas of the unknown and often thought uncountable microbial communities will take more than large numbers of participants and time to analyze the data. In a refrain understood well by geospatial analysts the project is going to require more computing power.

The Earth Microbiome Project provides an information page for people wanting to be involved in the project including working with samples, analyzing data, or creating new types of analytical tools.

40th anniversary of the announcement of the space shuttle program

This great image of US President Nixon and NASA Administrator Dr. James Fletcher shared today by NASA marks the 40th anniversary – January 5, 1972 – of the announcement by President Nixon of the start of the Space Shuttle program, and the beginning of 40 amazing years of innovation and achievement, as well as tragedy in the loss of Challenger and Columbia and their crews.

Image courtesy of NASA