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
Paper road maps are becoming obsolete, claims a NPR report. Well, not completely obsolete, but less and less used by daily drivers as GPS and SatNav have taken over. A spokesperson for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials believes map printing may be one place state transportation departments cut to ease budgetary issues. Apparently Washington state got rid of printing them complete in 2009! I understand the view completely as technological has taken over. That being said, even this techno-gadget junkie will miss the days the paper map. There’s something to be said for a product you can toss in the back, or stick in your back pocket, or fold over the wrong way, or write all over willy-nilly because you don’t care what happens to it. Oh paper road map your dad yelled at you for ‘folding it wrong’, how you will be missed!
Cars and geography go hand in hand if you ask me. After all, transportation is one of our fundamental layers in GIS, right? So Jalopnik’s post detailing the most popular street names in the US really struck my interest. I guess its no surprise that numbers are the most popular names, nor that trees are second. Personally, I wonder the popularity of tree names in areas compared to the trees they grow. Do more cities in, say, the pacific NW like ‘Pine Street’ than the middle states? I’d also bet there’s a lot of spatial clustering of names so that the numbers and trees tend to group together. Its pretty interesting that most polls show Abraham Lincoln as the most popular US President, yet George Washington gets all the street names.
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.
If you have met me, you know that I would love to teach a geography class using the book World War Z by Max Brooks, a journalist who uses a zombie apocalypse to discuss current events and world geography. David Hunter, a middle school teacher in Seattle, Washington beat me to the punch. He is asking for help on Kickstarter to create a Grade 5-8 Standards Based curriculum “Learning Geography skills through a Zombie Apocalypse Narrative”. His concept is not as far fetched as it seems. At the WV Association for Geospatial Professionals conference this week Sheila Wilson, Executive Director of the GIS Certificate Institute (GISP) started off her talk with the CDC Zombie Preparedness Guide. She talked about how in the guide a GIS team who were prepared to spatially analyze zombie hot spots, were prepared for anything. According to Cartographia, Austin TX has been prepared for a zombie outbreak since 2007.
Joking aside, I think that the zombie apocalypse creates a “sandbox” for researchers, educators, and society to analyze and understand complex, interconnected geospatial issues in a non-threatening way. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant a geography professor at Monmouth University is hopefully going to be presenting a paper on “Popular Culture and GIS: Using Geospatial Technologies to Model and Prepare for the Zombie Apocalyze.” at the 2012 ESRI Education User’s Conference (EDUC). There is also a 2012 ESRI International User’s session dedicated to Health, Behavior, and Zombies. Preparing for zombie outbreaks on Earth is inspiring geospatial professionals to innovate and think big much like Star Trek has inspired decades of engineers.
If you want to experience your own zombie attack, Class 3 Outbreak is a zombie outbreak simulator played via Google maps at hundreds of locations world wide.
As GIS people, we know we do awesome stuff everyday. However, this may ratchet up the awesome to 11… or maybe 12. A Indian man who had been adopted by an Australian family has found his long lost family via Google Earth. That brief summation doesn’t do the story justice and there isn’t much I can add here besides this – go read it. It’ll make your GIS heart proud.
Oh, and technology is AWESOME!
The US Census Bureau has released county to county migration for the 2005-2009 period. The data shows how people are moving around the US between counties. I was rather surprised to find out that only a bit over 1/3 of people who moved went to a whole new county. I would have guessed more than that. Maricopa County Arizona seems to have a lot of action going on. The received people from nearly 1,000 different counties around the US, but they also sent people to over 1,100 counties around the US. The realtors there must get a LOT of traffic. If you’d like to see the migration patterns for any particular county or even any particular state, you can download the excel spreadsheets yourself from this site.
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.\