Geography 970

January 31, 2010

Ice Fishing Shanty Towns

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jeremy White @ 5:32 pm

There are some small towns in Wisconsin.  For example, the village of Castle Rock has 314 permanent residents.  Every year there are shanty towns that develop on Wisconsin’s frozen lakes, nearly as big as Castle Rock, that are made up entirely of temporary residence.  An interesting aspect of these towns that develop is that the shack owners are required by the DNR to post their permanent home address on the outside of the structure “in block lettering at least one inch square in contrasting colors.

Last night, Tim and I were wondering what a map would look like showing the relationship between the addresses posted on the shacks and their permanent equivalents.  Are people generally placing their ice fishing huts closer to their homes, or are these structures more like hunting cabins where the owners are driving longer distances in order to get away from it all?


Are Apple, Adobe, Microsoft and Google all evil?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jeremy White @ 4:08 pm

I think it’s easy to lose track of the perspective that large corporate entities can be underhanded, especially when those corporations are great at “corporate skinning.”  By corporate skinning, I mean the ability of corporations to present themselves in a particular light through marketing materials, product design and general presentational aesthetics.  Microsoft is really bad at corporate skinning and Apple is very good, but both of these companies are enormous for-profit ventures that are beholden to the stockholders and are willing to throw the consumer under the bus if the bottom line is in jeopardy.

It’s painfully obvious that Microsoft is up to no good when the anti-trust suits are filed with the systematic precision of a Swiss watch.  There are many reasons to dislike Microsoft and their products, but it’s rare to hear people talk about other tech companies with such disdain.  However, it seems as if there has been a bit more negative dialogue recently with the announcement of the iPad.  Apple recently began stepping up the counter assault by claiming that Google and Adobe are the to blame for leading consumers astray.  Apple has a history practices that would not be tolerated if they didn’t keep up appearances so well, such as suing a small hardware provider that would provide Mac clones at a reduced price, bricking unlocked iPhones through software updates, pressuring NYC to change their “big apple” logo, restricting all iPhone application sales to the App Store and making a profit of over 70% on some hardware.  Seriously, what would be the consumer reaction if Microsoft restricted the sale of all Windows Mobile applications to their own website?  Maybe consumers would react well if Microsoft accompanied the restriction with a few simple ads on white backgrounds and some clever words in an appealing font.

Adobe controls a majority of the desktop publishing market but their customer support is notoriously bad.  In a similar betrayal of the consumer, Google restricted search results for Chinese citizens, but changed its policy after receiving cyber-attacks on its own corporate infrastructure.  Changing your policy on global information rights based on your own corporate interests seems evil.  Just sayin’.

On any given day you’ll find me sitting in front of my Windows based PC, working in Photoshop while listening to iTunes and occasionally checking my iGoogle page for the latest news.  Buddha once said that “an insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.”  Are we placing too much trust in some corporations just because a few product designers and graphic artists keep hitting home runs?

Geoweb Resources for Treasure Hunters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tim Wallace @ 12:51 pm

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has long been the keeper of a huge chunk of US offshore data. Their fleet of ships carrying all kinds of scientists have been mapping bathymetry, hazards and wrecks for decades. Until recently, however, getting to that data wasn’t exactly as easy as pie.

Nowadays NOAA charts and locational data are freely available for download and implementation in any kind of geographic visualization. The charts can be downloaded as GIS-friendly raster files through NOAA’s Raster Navigational Charts site. Similarly, locations of known wrecks and obstructions can be downloaded in tabular format through the Office of Coast Survey’s Automated Wreck and Obstruction Information System (AWOIS) and easily converted to points on a map.

While some agencies  – in an effort to preserve our maritime heritage – are tentative (at best) about publishing locational data for wrecks, NOAA has made it – well, as easy as pie to find a shipwreck.

Two Links

NOAA charts on Google Maps

AWOIS wrecks and obstructions KML (this is a download)

Drone Attacks Mapped . . . with pushpins?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tim Wallace @ 10:50 am

Right, so we all know that one telltale sign of a mashup is the use of a pushpin to signify just about anything.  In a way, I get the pushpin icon.  It makes sense, right?  When you go to that restaurant in Coastal Maine (yeah, Cook’s Lobster House), you enter through a vestibule where a big map emblazoned with pushpins hangs on the wall.  The pushpin carryover works in mashups.  After all, physical pushpins were the primary tool for these restaurant wall maps.  These wall maps were mashup prototypes.  The maps were put up with the intent of being peppered with user-generated content from any number of different contributors.  If that’s not a mashup, what is?

But here’s the thing.  No one was walking into Cook’s Lobster House and placing pushpins locating U.S. Drone Attacks in Pakistan since 2004.  I mean, why would they?  That would be . . . well, insensitive?  Inappropriate?  Awkward?  Or all of these things and more.

Pushpins maps were used to generate hype about just how far flung restaurant patrons were. The pushpins themselves were used almost explicitly to locate a person’s hometown, not the site of a bombing or drone attack.

This Google Maps mashup is one of the most popular on the web right now according to Google Maps Mania.  Many people are being exposed to this type of misplaced symbology.  So, I have to wonder if what is actually being mapped sinks in to the viewers.  Call me old fashioned, but a yellow pushpin doesn’t quite carry the weight of “20 killed in the village of Mami Rogha in North Waziristan by a US Drone in June of 2007”.

January 29, 2010

Network Effects and Augmented Reality

Filed under: Uncategorized — kjmcgrath @ 4:40 pm

Web 2.0 and emerging web technologies are increasingly important for cartography and all types of communication. Social networking, explosion of personal/group blogs (like this one!), and a host of other and crowd sourced data; flickr, openstreet maps, etc. All of these technologies are becoming even more mainstream and embedded into the culture. As we come to use these technologies more and more and come to expect their presence for information, practically constant contact, etc. (especially as these services migrate to mobile devices) we come to expect and look for new applications.

The power behind this explosion has everything to do the network effect. I think the new avenues for development will be then in creating connections and methods of connecting these smaller networks. One form that these networks may play an even larger role in our lives might be through augmented reality. This article imagines 6 forms that these augmented realities might take. From the practical; a heads up display of directions/ gps navigation on windshield  to the more creepy face recognizing door peephole.

On one hand we see these technologies as waves of the future but much of this information is available (mobile devices) anywhere you are.  The next step is movement of this information to a form not mediated by a device we pull out of our pockets but rather constantly avalible in a heads up way integrated into our preception of the world around us. How we implement and prepare for this revolution not to mention the role of graphic representation in communicating these data pose interesting questions for the future.


Is Photorealism Always Good in Web Mapping?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fei Du @ 9:59 am

Computer graphics has already been widely used in the field of web mapping. Traditional computer graphics mainly focuses on photorealism. In order to make online 3D maps, people need to collect a large amount of geometry data (3D) models and texture (photos). Even doing so, sometimes the rendered scenes still makes people feel not good. An alternative way is to use photo-based maps instead of CG, for example, Google has street view map, Microsoft released bird eye view map.

A question is: is photorealism always the best choice?

In photorealist 3d maps or photo-based maps, it’s not very easy to integrate other thematic information because the content is already very busy. For example, if someone want to research on heat island effect (heat of the building and roads), it is difficult to overlay those information on top of a building or road. Also, it is not easy to visualize a detailed 3d map on mobile devices because the screen is small. Another issue I can think of is privacy protection. Sometimes the information given by photorealist maps is too detailed that peoples’ privacy is invaded.

I recently read about an article on non-photorealistic rendering (NPR). This is an area of computer graphics that focuses on a wide variety of expressive styles for digital art. Different from traditional computer graphics, NPR is inspired by artistic styles such as painting, drawing, technical illustration, and animated cartoons. Here is an image provide by the article.

LandXplorer Images

Clearly, non-photorealistic rendering provides better visual abstraction. It seems closer to our traditional definition of a map. Most importantly, we have a lot of places to overly other thematic information by adjusting visual variables. It can offer another perspective of world (maybe artistic perspective). I believe it is not always good that everything looks exactly the same as what they are in the real world. For example, for children, a non-photorealistic map seems vivid.

Non-photorealistic computer graphics provides an option for web mapping applications. 

The article:

January 27, 2010

Google earth as GIS data viewer

Filed under: Uncategorized — kjmcgrath @ 5:29 pm

Images are pretty

I think this article typifies “public access to professional data” which certainly is a important competent of the “democratization of cartography” that has been touched upon in mapping circles. (I’ll leave the deconstruction of that term for Dan Huffman’s article for now.) While there are still some barriers to access (georeferencing of images, dealing with file formats, etc. – all things still in the domain of professionals or dedicated amateurs) using an established well known platform like Google Earth (GE) seems to open this data non-experts. My perception is that the vast majority of people with computer literacy have interacted with Google Earth (maybe this is wrong…?). But the ability of GE to display vector geospatial data and georeferenced images though an approachable interface and navigation system (one many users are already familiar with) allows experts to easily distribute data to non-experts. I think that this ability relates back to the power of maps in general and specifically the data power of GIS, GE as a data viewer then taps into this wealth of information (GIS data/Imagery and maps as communicative graphics) in a relatively non-threatening passing information requiring expert knowledge to more people.


The Hipness of Location

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tim Wallace @ 4:58 pm

With a new year comes all sorts of lists.  Lists about food (Saveur 100), and music (Pitchfork Best Albums) and technology (Webby’s Top 10 Internet Moments)  spring to mind, but the tabulation does not stop there (Time Magazine did a Top 10 of Everything in 2009 – really, everything?).

Some of the lists look forward and some look back.  The New York Times Bits (Business, innovation, technology & society) Blog started 2010 by looking forward with a list of “Five Tech Themes for 2010“.   Much of what is mentioned – both in the post and in the reader’s comments section – is geoweb-related, but I’m going to stick to one of the five main themes mentioned and have a closer look at some of the companies mentioned.

Number two on the list of themes for 2010:

Location, location, location: Start-ups like Hot Potato, Foursquare, Grindr and UrbanSpoon have generated a lot of buzz for their forays into the mobile location-based arena, but it’s only the beginning — particularly in light of the new geo-location features made available to developers and users on Twitter. It’s likely we will begin seeing many more useful location-based applications.

So, what’s a location-based service?  Well, loosely, it is an information service – usually available through a mobile device, like an iPhone, Android or Blackberry – that utilizes your location to serve up relevant content.  An example of this could be a a device that automatically tells you the local weather.

Why are these services so hip right now?  Well, who wants to print out stuff from their desktop PC for their weekender?  Driving directions from MapQuest, restaurant reviews, hotel prices, movie show times . . . that’s an awful lot of paper.  And every bit of ink on that paper could be outdated the instant you hit print.  So, it’s not all about having the newest gadget.  There is real benefit to having these services at your fingertips no matter where you are.  (As a side note, I read yesterday that Nokia is offering free navigation on their new smart phones as a reaction to the Android.  Nokia says their system is better than Google’s because it is “faster”.  We’ll see.)

Hot Potato.
From the looks of it, this is a service that compiles all blogs and tweets about a particular event in a particular place and creates a sort of instantaneous web site from what people are saying. So, if some weekend, the beets at the Dane County Farmer’s Market were particularly delicious and loads of people were blogging, tweeting and posting up photos of them, Hot Potato could be used as a portal to all of the hype.

Part reality and part game, Foursquare offers users the ability to check out what other people have said about where they are (restaurant, pub, theatre, etc.) and perhaps some kind of tip (go in the side door, avoid the ornery cashier, don’t drive here, etc.) as well as – in a way that isn’t entirely clear to me – collect “points”  toward “badges” for checking in from time to time.  Apparently, if you visit a place enough, you eventually become “mayor” which qualifies you for discounts (rules and restrictions may apply, right?).

Their website reads: “Whether he’s Mr. Right or Mr. Tonight, your man is hanging out on Grindr, a killer location-based social networking tool for the iPhone or iPod Touch.”  Grindr is a location-based dating service for gay, bi and curious men.  It shows the location of other men on Grindr in your neighborhood (again, based on your location).  Other location-based dating services include Meetmoi and Skout.

This service offers up some location-based restaurant reviews. If you click the link above, it will automatically read your IP address and suggest that you go to the Daisy Cupcakery for lunch. It will do the same if you are on a geo-enabled mobile device. Since I would also recommend that you go to the Daisy Cupcakery for lunch if you were in Madison, this service really drove home the whole idea of location-based service to me. If someone were to ask me where they should get some lunch. I would have to ask them where they are and how far they would be willing to travel. Urbanspoon and other location-based services eliminate those extra steps and jumps right to what you need (where you are).

After just having a cursory look at these services, I have to agree with the hype surrounding their utility.  However, I think it will be interesting to see which of these services, in this flurry of startups, will last.  I know that people love their “aps”, but having to install a different one for every type of location-based service may prove tiring.  Perhaps if the Bits Blog is right, 2010 be the year all of this gets sorted out.

A Limited Form of Democracy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Daniel Huffman @ 5:46 am

It seems to me that a lot of people like to refer to a recent “democratization of cartography.” While I do not dispute that cartography has changed quite significantly in the past fifteen years, I wonder if we need to think more about what that phrase means, and it if is really particularly accurate.

First off would be: what do we mean by cartography? If we’re talking fancy-pants academic study of maps, then I’m not so sure that this side of the business has been particularly opened to the masses. The people who talk at much length about new symbolization and production techniques are still the map geeks and academics.

So perhaps we are talking instead about the democratization of making maps (and I have no problem with applying the label “cartography” to that practice, but I thought I would clarify my meaning for anyone in the “cartography vs making maps” crowd). But people have always made their own maps, sometimes with nothing more than a stick and a line in the dirt. They have not always been great maps, or even always very effective ones, but the task has traditionally been open to anyone. I wonder if we are missing something by boiling down the ongoing digital revolution into something as simple as “maps used to come from the government and road atlas corporations, and now anyone can make one.” I have no data on to what extent Americans encountered “non-professional” maps in their everyday lives in the 1970s, but I would bet it is not insignificant. Maps of their neighborhoods, their parks, routes to friends’ houses, etc. Call it a “folk cartography,” if you will. When I was in middle school the map of my apartment complex was hand drawn, and the version of reality depicted on that map was not produced by a big corporation or government agency, but by the people who lived and experienced it. Efforts like these were confined to basic reference mapping of local areas, I expect, but they form their own valid body of cartography, and it is one that people encountered regularly. Not only did big corporations and governments make maps some decades ago, but so did everyday people.

So, what is new today? It seems to me a few things: 1) The technology barriers have been lowered, so that it doesn’t take years of training to handle the tools to make a professional-level map; 2) The web allows maps to be distributed widely at low cost; 3) Lots of data are available for free. So, now a college student can go and make a map of climates in Iran in an afternoon, which is something that only a paid professional could have done thirty years ago. Certainly, this is a major change, and I do not mean to discount any of it.

But I wonder if things have changed less than we might think. Who is really making all these fancy new democratic maps? It’s people with access to computers and the knowledge to use them. It’s people with enough leisure time to devote to tinkering with Google Maps mash-ups. The people who can afford a digital camera and have the time to geo-tag their photos after uploading them to Flickr. It is not the person working two jobs and raising a child, or the homeless person who experiences geographies that you and I rarely consider. It is true, many more people are making maps today, but it is no democracy, or if it is, the franchise is limited to those of sufficient property. Universal suffrage is wanting. In fact, it probably was forty years ago. The volunteer who painted a map of local parks that sits in the town square had to have the time and resources to devote to such an effort. All in all, though, the entry barrier to this folk cartography was once pretty low — rudimentary drawing supplies cost very little.

The transition to computers, however, has pulled some people away from pencil-and-paper mapping. Those who can meet the cost of entry have a chance to get closer to what paid professional cartographers do (or even exceed the quality of their work). The term “democratization” suggests we have extended cartography to the masses; my impression is that, in reality, a select group of the masses have simply found a way to move up to somewhere near the level of the elite professionals. In some ways, cartography may well have gotten less democratic. Once we had professionals and non-professionals. But the wealthier elements of the non-professional group have split off and moved closer to the professionals, increasing stratification.

I wonder if we are not, as academics, too willing to put ourselves in the role of “fighting the elite from inside the system” and cheering for our brethren, the “common people,” who are in all likelihood unaware that they are in the middle of a democratic revolution that we have been so kind as to proclaim on their behalf. There is indeed a process of change going on; more people can make better maps of more data sets than ever before. But we have a good long ways to go before the revolution is complete. We are caught at a sort of awkward stage, it seems to me — not everyone can yet take advantage of the opportunities are increasingly being put out there for them. I think, though, that we could be at this awkward stage for a rather long time.

Back to where I started: “democratization of cartography.” The term is a vague as to whether or not it is an ongoing or completed process. I am not sure I have a suitable replacement, however, which conveys the sense of what I have been trying to get across.

Apologies for the rambling, and the overly polemical nature of this whole post. I just had an idea and ran with it, and I recognize that it’s not 100% thought through (and, of course, I base it on no research whatsoever, having not yet read even Mr. Wood’s Cartography is Dead, Thank God). But it was interesting (to me at least) to think about. I suppose I just don’t know how all of it fits together yet, how what we are talking about now relates to what people are really doing, and what they have been doing for a very long time.

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