GIS and Today’s Technology: A Beneficial Duo

Note: This is the last post by our Spring intern Aleigha. A big thanks to Aleigha and good luck after graduation.

The significance of location services, prominence of maps, and apps that allow us to familiarize ourselves with geographic locations is on a steady rise. Where we used to depend on paper, or some form of tangible maps or listed directions, technology has drastically increased the demand to have those exact same directions or maps accessible to mobile phones, and other electronic devices such as tablets, and portable GPS gadgets. Location based technologies are always evolving. A perfect example of this would be Mapquest, which was extremely popular at one time but is now a thing of the past. In its place, LBS like Google Maps for Android, Foursquare, and Geoloqi have cropped up – for now.

Geographic Information Systems, otherwise known as GIS, can be described as the computer systems that allow information from maps, objects and routes, and other related subjects such as cartograms, charts, and 3D diagrams to be stored and accessed on a regular basis. The technology used in today’s mapping processes has made the ease of access more readily available and demanding. The Internet and other technological advances had a dramatic impact of all GIS related activities, and also on those who use the product. Termed Web 2.0 in 2005, the second stage of Internet development was characterized by the growth of dynamic user-generated content. Undoubtedly, it is becoming more common for EVERYONE to do or desire to do EVERYTHING electronically, not just GIS professionals.
Continue reading “GIS and Today’s Technology: A Beneficial Duo”

Internship Experience: National Holocaust Museum

According to a 2013 poll of GIS professionals on GIS Lounge, half of the respondents held a GIS intership at the start of their career. Andrew Fomil is a good example of how geospatial professionals use interships to get started. A young GIS professional, he has worked at ESRI D.C. (paid internship), American Geophysical Union, and Thomson Reuters, but he got his start with an NSF GIS Internship at the National Holocaust Museum. He is currently a graduate student finishing his Geography/GISc Master’s Degree at West Virginia University which he hopes like many students, along with his work experience and portfolio, to qualify him for more advanced projects and GIS management. Here he answers some questions about his experience. Continue reading “Internship Experience: National Holocaust Museum”

GIS DAY 15th Anniversary: Take the way back machine

Take the way back machine to the first GIS Day in Spring of 1999. ESRI ARC News Online announced GIS Day 1999 Slated for November!  According to the press release, ESRI told users to “Get ready to learn more about GIS and geography. The National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers (AAG), and Esri are announcing the first annual GIS Day to be held November 19, 1999–the Friday of Geography Awareness Week (November 14-20, 1999)”.  According to Jack Dangermond, “The idea behind GIS Day is to create a single, worldwide event that effectively communicates the benefits and significance of GIS to the rest of society. There are about half a million GIS users in the world, but most of the public is unaware of this growing technology.”  It is difficult to comprehend that in the span of a little more than short years since that inaugural GIS Day, the world has experienced what Penn State calls the geospatial revolution significantly impacting the number of GIS users worldwide. Continue reading “GIS DAY 15th Anniversary: Take the way back machine”

Maps and U.S. (Mid-Term) Elections

Each year the number of media sources using interactive election maps increases, from search engines like Bing Elections to newspapers of record like the New York Times Elections 2014, to public television like PBS.org, or media like USA Today. Even Facebook has added an ‘I voted‘ button. Some are created in-house using geospatial software like ESRI GIS for Elections and Redistricting, others use mapping software like Google Maps, but interactive election maps are so important to election news reporting there is a market for companies like InstantAtlas, Axismaps, and others to sell election results reporting tools.  In 2012, Visual.ly provided a critique of Eight Different Takes on Presidential Election Maps, which remains relevant to the U.S. 2014 mid-term elections.

However, an Electoral College Map Activity from Colonial Williamsburg for the election of 1800, 270 to Win’s historic presidential election maps, and a project on A New Commonwealth Votes: Using GIS to Analyze the Politics of Turn of the Century Massachusetts demonstrate that mapping and GIS are engaging no matter the time period or the election. Although it is nice to see an elected officials office littered with maps whether they be on multiple monitors or strewn around the office as In Jefferson’s Cabinet, 1803.

jefferson

When to Use an Interactive Map

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog article, “10 Maps that show how much time Americans spend grooming, eating, thinking, and praying”  presents some crisp maps using data from the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey.   The article is an interesting introduction to regional geography, but it is  sometimes jarring to find a website presenting spatial information that lends itself to interactive mapping as analog maps. After spending a few seconds clicking and rolling over states before realizing the data I wanted was presented in a table at the end of the article, the analog maps raised the important cartographic question of when to use an interactive map.

Interactive maps have become such an ubiquitous method for visualizing complex spatial information that geospatial professionals sometimes don’t ask if an interactive maps is always the best one. An article in a 2013 Journal of Spatial Information Science by Robert E. Roth explores the question of “Interactive maps: What we know and what we need to know“. According to Roth, “Cartographic interaction is defined as the dialog between a human and map,mediated through a computing device, and is essential to the research into interactive cartography, geovisualization, and geovisual analytics”.

An article in Scientific America, “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens” asks How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read? but it could also explain why we sometimes expect a static, analog map to be interactive.  

Esri Climate Resilience App Challenge

The June 2 deadline for the Esri Climate Resilience App Challenge is fast approaching.  The challenge is open to geospatial developers, of all ages from the from the private sector and the general public,  to create an app using the Esri ArcGIS Platform that conveys data on climate change risks and impacts in compelling and useful ways that help citizens, businesses, and communities make smart choices in the face of climate change.

The challenge is based on Climate Data Initiative needs outlined in the Climate Action Plan developed by the Obama Administration in June 2013.  A new initiative in 2014, Climate.Data.gov provides resiliency data and tools on topics such as  the vulnerability of the food supply and the threats to human health from climate change. Geographic map data for climate preparedness from different agencies has been collected and is made available via the geoplatform.gov and cliamate.data.gov.  Several examples of existing flood and other tools are available for developers planning to enter the challenge.

Good Luck!

Meet your Polar Vortex Meteorologist

Meteorologists made the Style section of the The Washington Post today in the article,  “What’s it like to be the voice of the Polar Vortex? These Weathermen Know”  Giving meteorologists an introduction worthy of a movie trailer, Rachel Lubitz asks, “So, what is it like to be the voice of this polar vortex, bringing the grim news about temperatures that are flirting with — and in some cases breaking — record lows?” It is a good introduction into how broadcast meteorologists approach their jobs. But what does it take to be a broadcast meteorologist? Continue reading “Meet your Polar Vortex Meteorologist”

Why OpenStreet Map Matters

I really liked this essay by Serge Wroclawski on why OpenStreet Map matters, which I found through the Gizmodo reprint. To be honest it doesn’t exactly say anything ground breaking for geographers, but it does so in a nice, concise presentation that anyone who isn’t a geographer can follow. The punchline of the piece is that OpenStreet maps matters because no one company should own/control ‘place’. Serge uses the analogy of time standardization from the 19th century to get the point across. It’s a neat idea and one I think we can adopt more fully when trying to explain some of these critical issues to the non-geographers in our lives.