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

Geospatial Professionals, Law, and Law School

Geospatial technology is changing the legal environment in several distinct ways that have made the news recently. The first is the relatively new legal speciality of Spatial Law. According to GeoLaw, a Virginia law firm specializing in geospatial legal issues or Spatial Law, the rapid growth of geospatial technology has created the need for specialized knowledge of location based privacy, intellectual property rights in geospatial datasets, liability over spatial data, geo regulations, and national or other security issues.  GeoLaw maintains a Spatial Law and Policy Blog on Legal and Policy Issues associated with geospatial data and technology. It is the blog that you are directed to from The Centre For Spatial Law and Policy  which educates lawyers, businesses, government agencies, policy makers and others on the unique legal and policy issues associated with geospatial technology. Batchgeo maintains a map of top spatial law and policy stories around the world that the public or geospatial professionals can contribute, while it isn’t extensive it has current news for 2014. Continue reading “Geospatial Professionals, Law, and Law School”

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!

UK Life Expectancy and Spatial Analysis

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 “UK Life Expectancy and Spatial Analysis”

Pins on the Map: George Washington Slept Here

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 “Pins on the Map: George Washington Slept Here”

GIS Day in the News

Updated:

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 technologyPublic-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.

 

Meta-Data, Locality, and WV-Gate

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 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?

 

 

 

 

 

Free Geography Books


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.