Geography 970

February 5, 2010

Jonathan Harris: Projects to create, represent and map stories

Filed under: Uncategorized — markharrower @ 12:09 pm

Jonathan Harris is someone we mentioned in seminar and I wanted to point you to two of his TED talk (in 480P!). The first is very beautiful and moving, the second focuses more on this technology and visualization efforts, both are very well done.

Couple of thoughts:

1. This is one of the best efforts I’ve seen to record, represent and map qualitative data, specifically human feelings, emotions, and stories (you know, the things that make us human!). We almost always map and analyze hard data (elevation, population densities) and so our mapping tools reflect this bias. It’s nice to see some fresh ideas here.

2. The humanity and emotion of his work is very delibeartely front-and-center (both his and that of the people he meets). I see this as a source of its strength and genuineness: No regression model has ever understood human suffering or friendship…poets, journalists, social workers, musicians, and all the rest of us do. But our databases and visualization tools and maps are so far from being fluent in “human-ness” that I can’t but think some of the worlds ills are exacerbated by GISci, not helped. So how do we get this “human data” on to a map? How do we learn something about ourselves – and can we?

3. Not to be unfairly harsh, but I still worry about wealthy educated kid “discovers” the developing world and makes it his personal mission to save / celebrate it. Are the folks from whom he collects his data any better off? Or is that not the point – is it merely good enough to raise awareness? I’m still on the fence about this one.


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