The UK Pensions Minister has proposed a plan that estimates life expectancy based on such as home location. In a BBC article, “Pensioners Could Get Life Expectancy Guidance” the Minister Steve Webb states that life expectancy planning based on data such as how long our grandparents lived is no longer a valid estimate tool. A review of articles in the BBC, Telegraph, The Mirror and The Guardian reveal that none of the articles mention aggregated spatial data, location based data, or give an indication of using classic spatial analysis, despite quotes such as ““My idea … is to say to somebody, ‘Look, someone of your generation, living in this part of the country, ……” Continue reading
As you shiver in the cold today during what The Weather Channel is predicting could be the coldest winter on record for decades in North America, reflect on the 1780 snowstorm that hit George Washington’s army at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, NJ, now a National Park that commemorates the Continental Army’s winter encampment (December 1779 – June 1780). Here the soldiers survived the tail end of what historians and paleoclimatologists dub, “the little ice age”. Continue reading
Today is GIS Day and it is making headlines in major newspapers around the globe. While some mainstream media sources are celebrating GIS Day by name, others are participating in spirit by having spatial news articles like the The New York Times, a newspaper of record, article on Mapping Bitcoin from November 19, 2013. But the GIS news that will make you feel warm-hearted are the regional newspapers, whose coverage is more reflective about GIS, their community, and the impact it has had on their lives. It is a true celebration of GIS Day.
The Milwaukee -Wisconsin Sentinal has an in-depth article on “Mapping the possibilities with GIS technology” that focuses on GIS in Wisconsin. The Jamaica Observer’s article states that finds that the “Gov’t wants more professionals to use GIS” The Austin Statesmen draws the community in by stating that ” GIS Day brings practical examples of geographic technology: Public-based technology used daily” While, The Salisbury Post more succinctly puts it, “Pothole? Broken street light? Report them using your phone, GIS“. Some towns such as Culpeper, even used the upcoming GIS Day opportunity to announce that their “Town launches new GIS system”
The Chattanoogan.com Business section combined two great events in one, announcing that, “Connected Tennessee Releases New Broadband Availability Figures In Support Of GIS Day 2013“. In Pennsylvania, the Governor proclaimed Nov. 20 as GIS Day, while “Local High School Students Learn About High-Tech Careers at ‘GIS Day’” including the text of Governor Corbett’s proclamation in the PENNSlyvania News & Buzz.
The future of GIS And teaching children is often the focus of GIS Day news coverage. The Caller.com highlighted GIS DAY in their Corpus Christi Photos round up with one symbolic photo of a young person, while the Killen Daily Herald states that not only did, “1,300 area sixth graders attend GIS Day” but the event is so big that “For more on GIS Day read tomorrow’s Killeen Daily Herald.”!
I will update this post throughout the day as GIS Day articles are posted online, keeping an eye on places such as the Winter Haven Library that will be holding a GIS Exhibit for the public on Thursday. Please send in your own local news.
This past week, Democrat Natalie Tennant announced her run for Senate and it was covered by the Washington Post, “Natalie Tennant Officially Launches Senate Campaign in West Virginia“. However, the big news wasn’t her political platform, but rather the fact that her campaign video uses stock footage of a college campus – not West Virginia University, where she attended college, or another WV institute of higher learner but that of college rival, University of Pittsburgh. Twitter feeds in West Virginia lit up as people, who know their own local and feel very proud of it, pointed out the potential goof. Republican campaigners were quick to take to Twitter to denounce the mistake, but many did so by referencing The University of West Virginia or other variations that were not the correct place name of West Virginia University. A repeat of the cycle happened, Twitter feeds lit up again, as people who know their own local and feel very proud of it, pointed out the potential goof. After a day or two the whole thing died down and has mostly been forgotten.
As geo-spatial professionals, who sometimes work on projects outside the scope of our specific local knowledge, we can probably all sympathize with both mistakes – not choosing stock photos wisely and not double checking specific place names. However, as this incident and other incidents like it illustrate, it is often important to weigh the cost of double checking meta-data, when available, versus the cost of having to deal with the fallout if anyone notices a discrepancy that is important to them because they know the area very well.
To quote, former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill, “All politics is local”, which makes meta-data a politically charged issue that needs to be carefully considered when trying to reach the public.
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?
I recently got an Ipad Mini and started to look for free books to download from Kindle, Google, Project Gutenberg, and the many other free resources that are available online. Once I started looking for geospatial and geography related books the list became almost mesmerizing. I found old books from “Home Geography for Primary Grades” in Google ebooks to The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography by Samuel Butler in Project Gutenberg. Some of the books are good examples of traditional cartographic methods such as “Terrestrial and Celestial GLOBES: Their History and Construction Including A Consideration of their Value as Aids in the Study of Geography and Astronomy which was scanned in to Project Gutenberg. Kindle ereader and Project Gutenberg both have copies of “Geography and Plays” by Gertrude Stein, which is written in the then modern style of the 1920′s about different countries around the world. Exploring the old geography books online is a fun way to spend an afternoon.
If you are looking for something more recent, Google ebooks and Google Scholar provides a significant number of chapters for more current books and journal articles on GIS and geospatial technologies including from 2013. Google Scholar also includes a patent search, legal documents, Federal and State courts. This is interesting reading even if it isn’t specifically in your industry, because you might just come across a new area of interest.
Has anyone else given this a lot of thought? Why does red = Republican and blue = Democrat in the US? Would it surprise you to find out that convention really didn’t fully catch on until as late as 2000? I can remember as a kid seeing a sea of blue on TV when Reagan got elected in 1980. Then I remember seeing a sea of red when he won again in 1984 with 49 of the 50 states and it kinda confused me. Well my confusion has been cleared thanks to this wonderful article by The Smithsonian. Take a few minutes and read all about the history of this cartographic phenomena in US political mapping. I personally really enjoy the side stories for the ‘why’ that are easily debunked. It makes for fun reading!
Also – if you’re eligible to vote in the US, go out and vote!
We’ve been following this news item for some time, and I have to say I, for one, never dreamed these scientists would be convicted. An Italian judge has decided six scientists and one government official are criminally negligent for failing to predict the L’Aquila earthquake. They face up to 6 years in jail for their actions. The judge was quick to point out the verdict isn’t based so much on the lack of prediction as their failure to adequate phrase their warnings in a sufficiently alarming way. It isn’t too much of a stretch to say this is going to have a drastically chilling impact on scientific reporting, particularly in Italy. I’d like to say something hopeful out of this, but frankly it is all quit too depressing.
Ars Technica is reporting that some researchers are having issues with the US’s pricing of carbon emissions. The price of carbon emissions is notoriously difficult to pin down, but these researchers are suggesting the US might have missed the mark by as much as a factor of 12. The problem centers around the discount rate, which is the cost of not spending the money on other uses, such as interest or capital investments, for instance. Apparently the researchers claim the US is setting this rate too high. They do not seem to be factoring in certain work that’s been done not just within climate change research, but also with economics and discount rates more broadly. It seems to me this shows an interesting interplay with different social and physical disciplines. Often what’s going on in one area isn’t translated or accounted for in another. Then policy makers have to come up with some sort of semi-educated guesstimate of how to integrate all of this stuff into a cohesive policy. It’s a thorny issue that’s beyond just climate change. However, I unsurprisingly believe we geographers might be a good nexus point within disciplines for just these sort of complex issues. Perhaps we should get involved more deeply with these sorts of estimates to attempt to redress such widely variant estimations. That’s not to discount the important work geographers are already doing, but just to suggest maybe we can get a little more vocal about our great work and how we can contribute.
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.