GIS and Fine Art

My day was made brighter this morning by a Paris Metro Project by Hwan Lee, which is an Art Takes Paris project that details all 261 metro stations in Paris and the path of Hwan’s walking history. I know that it is an art exhibit and that it is an actual static map, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if interactive maps were so artistic. Frank LaFone and I have often discussed the need for artists to get involved in the geospatial process. It takes a certain eye to create a useful and aesthetically pleasing map. One that was either taught or engrained in many cartographers in the past. As the line of viewer’s at the ESRI Map Gallery and the People’s Choice Award Winner illustrates, art and maps create an enticing combination of human expression.   Continue reading “GIS and Fine Art”

A Review of Apps and Maps

We downloaded several apps for our Very Spatial Road Trip that were recommended by friends, online reviews, and VerySpatial podcasts. Since she was acting as navigator, Barbara insisted on stopping at AAA and picking up a stack of paper maps for back up.  We found that there is no better crucible for  road testing a travel app than a lengthy trip into the unknown under sometimes stressful and time imperative conditions. We felt like the explorers in Dava Sobel‘s book “Longitude” who were sent to sea with new technologies that we hoped would live up to their claims. It wasn’t until after our trip that we heard more honest opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the apps we packed.  A friend, who is a global traveler, told us that it is good travel etiquette to leave our own input on any crowd-sourced apps as our “payment” for using it and to “pass it on” to other travelers. In that spirit, we have written a review of the apps that we used on our road trip from WV to CA.

Continue reading “A Review of Apps and Maps”

Cat Tracks

The BBC News Science & Environment section has an article on “The Secret Life of the cat: What do our feline companions get up to?” with an interactive map of cats in a Surrey Village. It was created by BBC Two’s Horizon Program and researchers at the Royal Veterinary College. It is based on a study by Dr. Alan Wilson, an animal movement specialist, at the Structure & Motion Laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College. In his article, “Secret Life of the Cat: The Science of Tracking Our Pets“, he provides information on the technical challenges of using GPS to track domestic cats. Like many scientists working in the field, Dr. Wilson has had to develop his own tracking equipment in order to study the movement of pigeons, sheep, cheetahs, wild dogs, and of course, cats. He is currently working on developing unmanned arial vehicles for remote sensing and movement tracking. Cats are a great way to introduce the public to interactive mapping, tracking, and geospatial concepts because cats and birds are the most popular pets in the world.

The combination of cat popularity and GPS even resulted in a best selling book, “Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology” about a writer’s determination to find out what her cat did when he went off into the “wild”.  CNET has a good video, “Using GPS to Track Exactly Where Cats Creep“, about how the authors learned to track Tibi.  The convoluted way they had to map his tracks illustrates the need for education on using GIS or an easy to use cat GIS, to go along with the easy to use cat tracking GPS market.

Geospatial Education and Interactive White Boards

Recently, I have been developing a tutorial for using electronic white boards for education. What I never noticed before, because they work so well together, is the symbiotic relationship between the use of electronic white boards and geospatial technologies. In an ENO by Polyvision demonstration, today’s modern classroom (of 4 years ago) includes a Google Earth based geography lesson. Other demonstrations include the use of Google Sketchup on an Eno Board.  A short video from Bayside Secondary in Ontario demonstrates the geography classroom of today using iPad apps and a Smartboard in a geography exercise. Interactive white boards are a natural fit for geography because of the creation of interactive wall maps by many former static map publishers, such as those developed by KIDS Interactive or StrataLogica NECC. According to ESRI’s educational model for building geospatial proficiency, presentation is the first rung in developing geospatial literacy. A conference paper on the “Place of the interactive whiteboard in higher education of the Polish educational system” specifically discusses its use in teaching GIS and spatial literacy.

However, the integration of geography, GIS, and electronic whiteboards doesn’t stop at K-12 education. At the GIS Conference 2012: Logica/CGI demonstrate their collaboration between ArcGIS and SMART Board that can be used with ArcGIS Online. The Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency in Tennessee likes to use a a Smartboard in conjunction with their GIS, in order to all be “on the same page”. I think I am so used to thinking of collaborative GIS as being done on a horizontal touch screen or table top device, like the TouchTableweTable, and other multi-touch environments, that I overlooked the power of the humble interactive white board.

GIS and Oklahoma Disaster

Many geospatial professionals, such as those on the GIS Stack Exchange, have asked what they can do with geospatial technologies to help in the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma or for other disasters.  There are several crisis maps online including Google’s Oklahoma Crisis Map and ESRI’s Public Information Map.  The American Red Cross has the Safe and Well Communication site and a map of available shelters.   The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the NOAA National Weather Service, and other

There are organizations that do crisis mapping, the most well-known being the URISA GIS Corps. Many times local areas have their own crisis mappers organizations which work with local geospatial groups, first responders, and municipalities.  The volunteer profile for Sean Bohac from RECON Environmental gives a good insight into what it is like to be a GIS volunteer in a disaster situation. Anahi Ayala Iacucci talks about other types of crisis mapping on her Diary of a Crisis Mapper website.

Crisis mapping is often an overlap of  existing geospatial infrastructure, when available, and disaster response by geospatial professionals and neogeographers. The National Academy of Sciences has an open book called, “Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management (2007)” by the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources (BESR).  The City of Moore, Oklahoma publicly available interactive map includes tornado damaged parcels from 2003 and many utilities including fire hydrants, which many towns have not located and mapped yet. They also ask that donations be made through The Red Cross.

I wasn’t able to locate any information related to directly related volunteer efforts, so please feel free to post any information you might have. Thank you.

 

 

The Apostrophe’s Last Stand

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting, spatially relevant article on regulation and standardization of place names and the disappearing apostrophe in U.S. signage, “Theres a Question Mark Hanging Over the Apostrophes Future: Its Practically Against the Law to Use the Mark in a Places Name; Sorry, Pikes Peak.”    Read the title again to catch the humor that Barry Newman uses to construct a brief history of place signage.

He states that the U.S. is the only country that standardized out apostrophes because they were seen as conveying private ownership of a public place. The USGS Board on Geographic Names set up in 1890 by President Harrison has eradicated around 250,000 apostrophes from federal maps. In contrast, the Apostrophe Protection Society kept the Mid Devon council in England from banning the use of apostrophes in street signs.  According to an in-depth article on the loss of the apostrophe and the history of Fell’s Point or Fells Point, Maryland, “What’s the Point?” from the Underbelly: From the Deepest Corners of the Maryland Historical Society Library, only five natural features have official license to use the possessive apostrophe in 2013.

The quoted arguments for the apostrophe is that it is part of proper English language usage, that it connotes information about the history of a place, and that not using them can cause confusion and miscommunication. What is most interesting about the WSJ article is who isn’t quoted – cartographers. How do cartographers feel about the vanishing apostrophe in place names?

 

 

 

 

 

Build Your Own Cicada Sensor

NPR had a  March story on “The Cicadas are Coming! Crowdsourcing An Underground Movement”  about the public’s involvement in predicting cicada emergence, and the time is now. If you live on the East Coast, where the Magicicada Brood II is making its “squishy and crunchy” 17-year reappearance according to Radiolab’s Cicada Tracker, be a part of citizen science tracking cicada’s. Research Scientist’s at the University of Connecticut Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department provide a tracking form, Radiolab provides instructions for a cool home made cicada sensor or a cheap soil thermometer detection method to map “Swarmageddon”.

Other cicada projects include:  The Mid-Atlantic Cicada database project is collecting brood reports to map for the mid-Atlantic region. The College of Mount St.Joseph and the Indian Academy of Science have a self-report site for mapping the Indiana brood at the IAS Cicada Web site.  According to the IAS website, Gene Kritsky, author of the Indiana Academy of Science’s book “Periodical Cicadas, the Plague and the Puzzle” found that Magicicada Brood II was mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1724 and are still found in the same place today. Leon Weinman’s poem, “Cicadas, Monticello” for Cerise Press begins, “Numberless, in cradled isolation, they nurse their common fate. Years, beneath cool pines, they wait in their white silence, emerging finally, at once, in thick surrender to the air.” While I am not sure if it refers to Jefferson’s Monticello, Georgia‘s, or somewhere else, it captures the spirit of a cicada emergence.

If you want more information on cicadas, Cicada Mania is a website “Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world”! with detailed information, maps, videos, photos, songs and a gift store. Other sources for information include:  National Geographic provides information on Cicadas at it’s website, Animal Planet explains “Why are Cicadas so Noisy?”, and University of Maryland the Cicadamanics reveal “Cicada-licoious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas” for the exceptionally curious.