Monthly Archives: October 2012

Geoliteracy: So What?

Trooping into my room on the first day of school, my 8th grade geography classes would look above the board and see a sign:

Geography is:

  1. What’s where?
  2. Why is it there?
  3. So what?

I would tell them that they didn’t need to know a lot of facts for my class; primarily they needed thinking skills. They would build up their background knowledge by exercising those skills endlessly. We quickly began exploring.

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Cause-Related Mapping

Many of us are familiar with the term “cause-related marketing.” Sometimes the phrase is applied in a broad sense to any effort to increase public awareness of an important issue. A narrower definition is a campaign by a corporation to support a cause, either (cynically) to promote its own brand or (unselfishly) to lend its support to a worthy pursuit—depending on your point of view.

The Internet, the airwaves, and print media are rife with cause-related marketing. How many times, for instance, have you encountered ads by oil companies and automobile manufacturers touting their “green” practices? Cause-related mapping, on the other hand, is a far less common phenomenon.

What is cause-related mapping? It’s my own term, so I’m happy to propose a definition: It’s the use of maps, in combination with other rich media, to inform and engage the public in support of important causes.

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Geoscience Careers and Earth Science Week 2012

Anyone who has participated in the annual Esri International User Conference or has pored over the annual Esri Map Book knows that geography and science touch our lives every day. It is incumbent upon we GIS professionals, and others we inspire, to clearly communicate the value and benefits of careers working with geospatial technologies.  And this year’s Earth Science Week offers a great opportunity for the GIS community to come together and promote geospatial career pathways.

As we look at the current state of the world, imagine the future, and recognize that we and others must jump into the breach to tackle everything from local matters to global predicaments, we have always seen GIS and a geographic perspective as essential to helping steward local communities and the planet. This very much includes the geosciences community—from people seeking to solve energy sustainability issues to those helping ensure our planetary ecological footprint is softer to those contending with interrelated ocean and atmosphere changes. The Esri Education Program, a 20-year proponent of the use of geospatial technology in science education, has been attentive to this. Another great step forward is getting the geospatial industry to embrace and actively promote Earth Science Week and advance the geosciences career pathway.

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Public Works and the Cloud

A leapfrog opportunity

Despite the digital revolution, many public works departments are still in the paper age. Typically, these departments serve smaller communities and have yet to adopt GIS technology for a variety of reasons, including cost and complexity. The steps in implementing a traditional GIS include buying a system; converting paper basemaps; adding infrastructure layers such as roads, pipes, and wires; building applications; and training users, all of which is often too resource intensive. Cloud-based GIS removes these barriers. Continue reading

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The Power of the Map

Maps mean different things to different people.  So what is a map?

My definition is simple: a map is an answer to a question.

There are three basic kinds of maps that answer three basic types of questions:

  • The Location map answers the question, “Where am I?”
  • The Navigation map answers the question, “How do I get there?”
  • The Spatial Relationships map answers the question “How are these things related?”

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Big Data, GIS, and the Academic Community

Researchers today need to deal with an avalanche of data—from environmental sensor networks (both on land and at sea), social media feeds, LiDAR, and outputs from global- and regional-scale atmospheric circulation and general climate models and simulations. Because of this, “big data” is emerging as a major research theme for the academic community.

I recently had the opportunity to attend GIScience 2012, which is convened every two years and brings together leading researchers from around the world to reflect on a wide spectrum of geographic information science research areas. Attendees are normally university academics and graduate students working in the areas of geography, computer science, information science, cognitive science, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, social science, environmental sciences, and spatial statistics.
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