Tag Archives: geography

Visualization: What can my map show me?

In many cases, just by making a map you are doing analysis. That’s because you’re making the map for a reason. You have a question you want the map to help answer: Where has disease ravaged trees? Which communities are in the path of a wildfire? Where are areas of high crime? It’s also because when you make a map, as with any analysis, you’re making decisions about which information to include and how to present that information. Effective visualization is valuable for communicating results and messages clearly in an engaging way. Here are three key decisions that affect the information a map presents and the story it tells.

Choose Scale

The scale of the map itself (the area you’re showing) and the scale of the data you use both affect what your map will show. A classic example of how your choice determines the question answered is whether to show presidential election results by state or by county. While the state-level data does show a distinct national pattern, the county-level map reveals much more nuanced local and regional patterns. Map A answers the question, What is the pattern of states (and electoral votes) won by each candidate? Map B, about voting by county, better answers the question, What is the distribution of Republican and Democratic voters in this election?

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The Role of Web Maps

Web maps are online maps created with ArcGIS that provide a way to work and interact with geographic content organized as layers. They are shared on the web and across smartphones and tablets. Each web map contains a reference basemap along with a set of additional data layers, plus tools that work on these layers. The tools can do simple things like open a pop-up window when you click on the map, or more complex things, like perform a spatial analysis and tell you the relative proximity of healthy food options by neighborhood.

At their heart, web maps are simple. Start with a basemap and mash it up with your own data layers. Then add additional tools that support what you want your users to do with your web map: tell stories; perform analytical studies; collect data in the field; or monitor and manage your operations.

Virtually anything you do with GIS can be shared using web maps. And they can go anywhere. Web maps work online and on any smartphone, and along with your supporting GIS work, are accessible anytime.

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Your GIS is Mobile

GIS on mobile devices has changed how we interact with geography. With a smartphone you can access maps and data for anywhere on any theme, and because the phone can record where you are, you’re now in position to leverage your full GIS capabilities in the field.

GIS Goes Where You Go

With mobile GIS, your GIS maps and apps go with you wherever you go. That’s a big idea. The integration of the smartphone and GIS carries many implications in addition to the ones described here.

You can use your phone to capture geotagged photos and videos, and then use them to tell and share your stories. You can collect data in the field and update your enterprise information. Your phone can also be used to access enterprise information for your current location so that you have deeper knowledge and awareness.

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Capitol Spotlight on GIS and Policy

Last week Jack Dangermond joined Esri’s policy team to host the first GIS and Policy event at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center. Nearly 100 policymakers convened to learn firsthand how the growing community is using GIS to inform and disseminate public policy.

Congress and its staff are increasingly relying on digital over print information sources, and naturally that drives demand for interactive data products. Most recently, this has led the Congress’s research institution, the Library of Congress, to expand its web GIS offerings. The Congressional Research Service’s GIS Team provides Congress and its staff with many GIS services, including cartographic maps, geodata, and interactive web maps. This shared geospatial analysis enables policy makers to identify how features intersect with proposed policy, and sometimes how those features intersect with a member’s geography.

Maps Communicate Complex Policy

Many communications, digital directors, and press secretaries use web maps to compliment legislative text. Offices are finding that a compelling, trustworthy map noticeably increases the number of times a story is picked-up and shared. Some are using maps to communicate complex policy ideas in an easy to understand way. Readers can identify with policy on a map, understand its impact at the local level, and decide how to act. For example, Senator Wyden’s Medicare Beneficiaries with Chronic Conditions interactive web map enables readers to understand how the standard of care for Medicare beneficiaries with three chronic conditions varies by local geography.

Visitors to Senator Wyden’s webpage can click on this interactive map and see the number of Medicare beneficiaries suffering from chronic disease in each state.

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Updated Map Features Global Ecology in Unprecedented Detail

In 2014, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Esri announced the publication of the most detailed global ecological land units(ELUs) map in the world. The ELUs are terrestrial ecosystems defined and modeled as unique combinations of bioclimate, landform, geology, and land cover.

In creating the original version, the team learned of the input data’s limitations and created a plan to improve the ELUs with updated input data in 2015. Today, Esri and USGS are pleased to announce the availability of an update to the global ecological land units (ELUs) map.

In particular, Esri created a new global landforms layer to address valid criticisms of the earlier version, which under-represented hills and over represented plains. Additionally, the new landforms dataset gained more classes, including tablelands. The new dataset is also more regionalized, or less fragmented than the earlier dataset, and therefore more intuitive.

Highlighted is a portion of the Kaibab Plateau on the north side of the Grand Canyon in the U.S. New landform classes such as tablelands were incorporated into the 2015 Ecological Land Units dataset. Click on the image to open the EcoExplorer App to learn more about Ecological Land Units where you live.

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Federal Innovation in the Spotlight

More than 4,800 people gathered at the 2016 Esri Federal GIS (FedGIS) Conference to share how government agencies are innovating with GIS. Attendees and speakers talked about making data more accessible and actionable, collecting imagery with drones, and expanding use of cloud technology and mobile apps to more seamlessly execute their missions and better serve their end users.

Keynote speaker and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) Deputy Director Sue Gordon shared how NGA is opening non-classified data, including making digital elevation models available, to the public for the first time. Like many federal agencies, NGA is increasingly implementing in a cloud environment and using mobile apps to enhance resource sharing. Doing so supports missions and will support safety at events like the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Across the more than 125 sessions, users demonstrated how GIS is providing the framework for applying geography to critical decision making. Here are the top four takeaways you should know: Continue reading

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GIS: Turning Geography into Geographic Understanding

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We’re fortunate to be engaged as GIS professionals today. Never before has there been so much potential to transform the work we do and the organizations we serve geospatially. What do we need for this transformation? We need authoritative data at … Continue reading

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The New Geographers

“So many of the world’s current issues—at a global scale and locally—boil down to geography, and need the geographers of the future to help us understand them.”
Michael Palin

“What is the capital of Madagascar?”

Unfortunately, that’s what most people think of when they hear the term geography.

“It’s boring,” they say. “It’s the study of useless information. It has no practical relevance to my life.”

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Geography is one of the most interesting, vibrant, and dynamic fields of study today. It’s also one of the most vital.

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Geography as a Platform

Following are a few notes from my talk at the 2012 Esri User Conference. You can watch the complete video here.

Geography is our platform for understanding the world.  GIS is making geography come alive. GIS condenses down all of our data, our information, our knowledge, and our science into a kind of language that we can easily understand: maps.

Maps help us integrate and apply our knowledge. Maps also tell stories—stories about almost everything in our world. We need to harness the power of maps to design the future and create better outcomes.

I’m very confident that we can do this. One reason is that GIS itself is advancing; it’s getting more powerful and it’s getting easier to use. It’s evolving with lots of new capabilities. It’s moving to the cloud and becoming more pervasive. GIS has evolved mapping to a new level, creating geography as a platform.

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Geomedicine: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

For decades the public health field has generated incredible knowledge about what makes us sick. Public health agencies and authorities tell us in general what is good and bad for the general population, hoping that we will individually change our behaviors or pressure others to remediate assaults on our collective environments. Frankly, it’s a never ending job faced with difficult information choices, deaf ears, and mixed messages.

On the other hand, we have medicine at its apex of specialization, where doctors know a great deal about a few things and fewer know a little about everything. More problematic, however, is the new paradigm of a virtual physician in the palm of your hand: as society embraces the use of smartphones, people increasingly search for their own diagnoses and cures in absence of a more creative approach for bring public health knowledge into close proximity of personal medicine.

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