A VerySpatial Podcast
Shownotes – Episode 375
September 24, 2012
Main Topic: Part 2 of our conversation with Carl Steinitz
Click for the detailed shownotes Continue reading
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.
Like a good maze, the connection between mazes and cartography might not be self-evident on first glance but from then on it seems obvious. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “This Is Amazing: Maker of Puzzle Finds Few Wanting to Try It: Creating the Largest Hand-Drawn Maze Presents Challenges; Dead Ends, Pancakes” by John Miller interviews Joe Wos, Director of the ToonSeum, a Pittsburgh cartoon museum, and creator of the world’s largest hand drawn maze – almost. It can’t be made official until someone actually solves it.
One person who declined the challenge is maze expert Adrian Fisher, the world’s leading maze designer, 600 mazes (43 of them mirror mazes) in 30 countries, and holistic city planner. He applies his spatial skills to physical mazes, labyrinths, landscape design, town planning and development, transport map concepts, and inventions such as the Mitre Tiling system and the 7-sided Fisher Paver system. According to the website, MirrorMaze, some of his designs are large enough to be seen on Google Earth.
In her book, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, landscape author Rebecca Solnit writes that ““A labyrinth is a symbolic journey or a map of the route to salvation, but it is a map we can really walk on, blurring the difference between map and world.” However, functionally, a maze and a map both give a bird’s eye view of the world and involve similar geographic ideas. Dr. Joseph J. Kerski, USGS takes this concept further in his article, “Corn Mazes are Maps” for the Fall 2011 Connecticut Geospatial Newsletter. He believes that corn mazes allows people to experience scale, relative and absolute location, land use, and other foundations of geography. In fact, the USGS published a 2012 handout on “ Ten Lessons for Teaching Geography Using Corn Mazes“.
A geographer might never look at their local corn maze, garden maze, or contemplation labyrinth the same after realizing the spatial connections between a maze and a map.
Back in the summer we highlighted the Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards in the podcast as a Tip of the Week, but now as the October 1st deadline approaches, I wanted to provide a reminder. The awards are open to a wide range of groups and individuals who are interested in sharing the word about Geo. There are two awards, a $300 Alexander Von Humboldt Prize and a $200 Isaiah Bowman Prize that will be awarded at the beginning of November to support the implementation of the proposed projects.
If you have an idea to spread the word of Geography, head over and check out the details to submit.
This is a great education and outreach opportunity to help inform people about water quality issues. It is an extension of the UN’s World Water Day (March 22) which focuses on educating the public by getting them to conduct water quality tests of local water bodies and share the data. The challenge is coordinated by the Water Environment Federation and the International Water Association, and sponsored by organizations such as the USGS and EPA.
As a focus for the challenge, Tuesday, Sept 18 has been deemed World Water Monitoring Day. Thousands of participants, individuals and classes, will be heading out to test water quality near them. You can check the event web site to find out if there is a local event going on in your neck of the woods. If you can’t make it to one of the organized events this week you can also order test kits from the website.
While this gives folks a chance to get a little bit of field experience, there is also a wealth of data, including webmaps, from previous years available to play around with.
In episode 373 I talked about the US Census Bureau defining ‘city’ as 2500 or more, but that isn’t exactly correct. It is actually the ‘urban’ transition point. While we often equate urban to city, as we discuss in the podcast there are many other variables that play into the description.
OK, that is all. I just wanted to say something after editing the podcast. Easier than rerecording
When we were brainstorming what my column title and topical area should be, everyone knew that it had to be like my posts – seemingly unrelated but always connecting back to the geospatial. The titles we tried out were All Over the Map; funny because it was so accurate, Pens on a Map; which was a great visual, and Pins on a Map. I chose Pins on a Map because I felt that I am pinning down the geospatial in everyday life around the world – “Pin Pointing” the geospatial in people’s lives and professions, if I can use another pun.
But my pin pointing doesn’t stop at VerySpatial, I am lucky to have jobs where I work on interdisciplinary projects and meet a cross section of people from different countries, professions, and ages. Throughout my day when someone says something like “I only have 5 pages to get my point across for this grant and I need to fit in my ROI and demographics”, I point out that what they are asking for is a great visual analysis or a map. I then put them in touch with the appropriate GIS team and encourage them to get GIS training. If I am working with capstone students who are trying to boost their resumes, I make sure to mention the university’s Esri site license that allows them free access to Esri online training courses. Later that day when I am talking to someone about city planning, I will talk about participatory GIS and community projects.
I learned about geospatial concepts because, even though I wasn’t a geographer or working in a typical geospatial field, someone took the time to explain them to me and to let me know how they impacted my everyday life. This made me realize that although I might not have always known the correct terminology, there was a spatial perspective to my work and interests. Like many of the discussions Sue, Jesse, and Frank have on VerySpatial, I didn’t realize I was a geographer at heart until someone pointed out to me what geography meant in the real world. We live in a geospatial world and many people don’t realize it. I think one of the best ways to address this is to point out the geospatial when we see it and to let people know, “Hey! You might not realize it, but you are using geospatial concepts and geospatial technologies”
This is a big selling point because I have found that a lot of people using these concepts in their day-to-day jobs are in fields like education, business, and service industries, that don’t think of themselves as being in a field that uses technology/science. For example, SEO content writers often play an integral role in location-based services and don’t even realize it. The benefits of knowing about geospatial concepts and GIS go beyond the impact of the analysis or project. I know several people who said that just knowing that GIS was out there and how people used it helped them in a job interview. Each time I hear that I mentally put another pin in the map I keep in my mind.
I think that all geospatial professionals are putting pins on a map as they go throughout their day and that these pins all connect up to create general geospatial awareness. The key to raising awareness is consistency and coverage. You don’t have to use a power point or give a big presentation; sometimes it’s the little reinforcing comments that pin something down the most.
Thanks! Sue, Jesse, and Frank for placing my pin on the map when you first pointed out – “Hey, You know that thing you are trying to do, it’s a spatial concept.” Throughout my columns I will explore geospatial concepts and technologies in different forms.