The Surui people, who have been so remote in the Brazilian forests that they were only ‘discovered’ in 1969, have turned to the high tech tools of Google Earth to help them protect their existence. Initial contacts with outsiders led them to fight, but bows and arrows proved rather useless compared to modern weapons. Since then, they have negotiated a peace, but their lands are continuously encroached upon. Enter Google Earth, which the tribe uses to monitor treaty breaking moves by logging companies. The whole story is a testament to how far web mapping has spread into our modern (and sometimes ancient) lives.
As geographers, I know everyone out there is thinking, “I get the the home buying industry in the US is imploding like a black hole, but I still am having trouble understanding what’s going on.” Fear not dear reader, the wonderful people at the Federal Reserve have given us – Dynamic Maps of Nonprime Mortgage Conditions in the United States! Now you can browse the mortgage meltdown in map form. All of the maps are color ramps with a few layers of reference data to help you find your way. You can search by zip code as well. My only issue with the maps themselves lies with the fact that it’s hard to see a lot of the graduations in the ramps, especially for themes with lower absolute numbers.
I am feverishly working to get my dissertation proposal finished, and while reading Hamlet on the Holodeck (a great book, by the way), I jumped online to look a couple of things up and stumbled across the Atlas of Early Printing. It’s project done by the University of Iowa’s Libraries, and offers a nice Flash-based web map application that gives a geographic perspective on the first half-century of printing in Europe (1450-1500). The map layers include the spread of printing, and the locations of universities, paper mills, and fairs. Other resources related to the atlas include an animated 3D model of an early printing press. There’s also a nice slider feature that allows you to animate the layers chronologically to get a more dynamic picture of how printing spread. I whiled away a good half hour just checking out some of the points in the atlas, and there’s lots more great information on the site.
Ever wondered what would happen if Google Streetview was taken to the next level.
But what is it? Is it Immersive Technologies…or ‘the Google.’ Fingers crossed for a sequel.
Cheers to Sue for the great find and for being too slow to post it herself
While looking for some sample GIS data for a demo, I ran into the US Atlas of Renewable Resources, a project of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The atlas (which is still under development) includes a web mapping interface that show the geographic distribution of wind, biomass, geothermal and solar resources, and the NREL site also has data available for download. The Atlas of Renewable Energy is one of several GIS projects and data sets available from NREL, so if you are interested in mapping or GIS analysis related to renewable energy sources here in the US, it’s a good place to start.
Our reader Ed always sends us great links to cool applications and projects, and Globe Glider is another great find. According to the site, it’s a “geo-browser” with an interface that allows users to search and browse by location. Both a Google Maps and Virtual Earth interface are available (you can also use it in Google Earth), with the top half of the browser window given over to a larger view of one of the web mapping apps, while the other is still available in a smaller frame in the lower left corner. If you want to switch the views, there’s a button to flip the two. What the heart of Globe Glider is, though, is its linkages to other sites and resources that are all linked to the locations you are browsing in the mapping interface. For example, I used a Virtual Earth 3D interface in the upper window to navigate to northern Wisconsin, and typed hotels into the Google Local search bar, which gave me results for the nearest hotels to the location. I could then click on the GeoURL tab and see websites from IP addresses nearby, Flickr for geotagged photos, and even weather (a ridiculously cold -27F). Globe Glider brings together tools from Google, Microsoft, Wikipedia, Flickr and others to create a one-stop shop that gives a great example of how location-based search can really change the way we navigate the Web and find information.
We’ve highlighted some of the efforts to utilize web mapping platforms as a tool for organizing and presenting information about the US presidential election, but I just ran across a unique interactive web map for the UK’s current political makeup and what that would mean for the next General Election, put together for the Telegraph newspaper. Each UK constituency is represented by a hexagon that a user can click to bring up relevant information. The map also has some cool functionality, such as a swingometer, where you can use a slider bar to see what would happen if the vote swung in different directions.
Since elections are not held at fixed intervals, the next General Election may not be for awhile, but I think the map is worth checking out, if only to try out their unique interface.
Google has already been plotting US presidential primary results on Google Maps and Google Earth, but in preparation for “Super Tuesday,” YouTube has a Super Tuesday channel that features a Google Maps interface that allows users to upload their own comments and multimedia related to the upcoming primaries. In addition, there are also videos from local news outlets, candidates and even voters themselves in each of the states. Super Tuesday is February 5th, and is the day in which 24 US states will be holding their presidential primaries or party caususes. This day will have a huge impact on who will be the Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidency, and there’s a lot of campaigning going on.
New Media and the Internet seem to be playing a significant role in the 2008 US presidential campaign, although it may not be clear how much of an impact it will have on the actual vote. I think sites and resources like the YouTube/Google Maps Super Tuesday site are really bringing new perspectives on the campaign and its issues and I hope it will also increase voter turnout, especially with younger and new voters.
DataPortability announced today that Google, Facebook, and Plaxo have joined the DataPortability Workgroup on creating open standards for social networking data. DataPortability’s mission is ” To put all existing technologies and initiatives in context to create a reference design for end-to-end Data Portability. To promote that design to the developer, vendor and end-user community.” In the world of social networking, the big players like Facebook and Google currently have proprietary and competing data formats and standards, and there are no easy solutions to integrating information from various platforms. DataPortability is essentially a group that is advocating the adoption of various open standards that are often used in social networking/Web 2.0 applications, such as RSS, so that data from these sites can be taken by the users themselves and reused elsewhere or can be exchanged and enhanced. This announcement follows on the heels of the Robert Scoble/Facebook data tussle, where Scoble downloaded some data about his Facebook friends and Facebook blocked his account. After much furor, Scoble’s account was reinstated, and Chris Saad from the DataPortability Workgroup issued the open invitation for Facebook to join, which they have now accepted. Other members of the group include Yahoo, MySpace, and the BBC.
Of course, the privacy issues are always a challenge, but the issue of ownership of one’s own data that is contributed to sites like Facebook and the value of such data continues to be debated and a proactive approach to opening up these datasets could have a really huge impact on social networking and the Web, if the big boys follow through.