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Thursday, June 30, 2005

GIS: Pros and Cons

GIS can do many great things for map making. One I find the most benifitial is being able to layer data into maps. This visual display of data makes understanding the data much easier for me since I am a visual person by nature. Being able to layer data ontop of each other is also great. Instead of having to consult two or three maps everything can be complined easily into just one map. When doing so with print maps the data can get lost and the map become unclear or hard to read. However, with GIS layers can be turned on or off when not needed.

There are drawbacks to adding map layers though. If the data is poor or incorrect, the map will also be. While it may be easy to get data from the internet or other places easily, not all the data is reliable. Sometimes data is also hard to understand and the meanings being the numbers are missing. Using data like that makes poor maps. This is one of the major drawbacks of GIS systems. The maps are only as good as the data put into them.

GIS has many more pros and cons associated with it then the two I have listed here. Overall though, I believe the pros far outweigh the cons and as long as proper training is available GIS can make some fabulous maps.

Benefits & Dangers of GIS

Thinking geographically is second nature to all of us. It is a prerequisite to interact with the world on a daily basis. Neither driving a car, sitting down, reshelving books, typing, nor almost anything else would be possible without spatial awareness on our part. As we have seen in lecture, this awareness is reflected in the longstanding human tradition to represent, or map, the known world. Perhaps this is why claims made by geographers and maps made by cartographers are simultaneously fascinating and taken for granted. The geographer’s claim that close things are more related than things far away seems obvious in the example of housing prices and architecture. But when we consider what this tells us about the way humans structure their world, it becomes less of an obvious statement and more of a fascinating thought. There is certainly no rule that houses be similar just because they are close. We are physically capable of building a shack next door to a mansion, but we don’t. Geography tries to answer that question, ‘why’? I’m sure that many of us have experienced, or have heard about people pouring over a road atlas, imagining what it’s like at a certain bend in the road, what the people eat, how the physical landscape appears, or what accents people use. This is the fascinating part. The taken for granted part is that the road actually exists, that the often-arbitrary lines we call state boundaries exist, and most importantly, that what is shown on the map is all there is to know about the world. I think the biggest strength of geography is its desire to shed this common spatial awareness, or this taken-for-grantedness that is second nature to us all, and instead attempt to conceive of space as if it were not a given as we experience it on a daily basis. Rethinking distance, spatial relationships, flows, boundaries, etc is an important way to probe deeper into what constitutes our reality.

The benefit of a GIS, then, is that it allows the manipulation and visual presentation of all kinds of data so that the taken for granted becomes the fascinating. Imagine a pre-GIS boardroom with someone presenting that year’s circulation statistics for the library branches of Dane county. Aurally associating a place name with a number does not encourage the incorporation of other factors that may have affected or influenced those data. Visualizing them on a map, however, could lead to new thoughts such as the placement of roads or the lowland area that may be prone to flooding, for example.

I feel that the biggest danger of using a GIS is that it is entirely restricted by the quality and quantity of data that exist, or to be more accurate, the quality and quantity of data that are findable (to echo Ben's 'con'). Mark Harrower, a professional cartographer, has noted that we do not live in the information age, but the data age. We are inundated with massive amounts of data, be they through web interfaces, excel spreadsheets, television channels, etc. As we are learning in this course, a large part of the present-day cartographer’s job is to make sense of these data and turn them into digestible information that reflects a part of reality. By their nature, maps made with a GIS completely quantify the world, an approach that is politically powerful, but not necessarily accurate. How would one, for example, map the amount of fear felt by Baghdadians using a GIS? Understanding, let alone transforming this part of our world into a GIS is a challenge.

Because of these pitfalls, the analyst of a geographic problem should use a GIS as one resource of many in his or her toolbox, relying on other types of research as well.

GIS Cons and Pros

With power comes responsibility. Such is the case with GIS. As the readings have said, maps can be used for propoganda, and this propoganda can be built on a foundation of positive and negative motives. The "Mapping" book has a very Marxist interpretation of the history of map use. GIS in itself is an impartial medium, but the creators and the interpeters each apply their own paradigm to geography and portray or interpret the data in what ever ways that they know how, or choose to see the situation. So the strengths of GIS in manipulability, storage, and transmission, without the assistance of a publisher (or reviewers for that matter) are also its weaknesses. It just matters how you apply it.

Cons: The cons of GIS lie in the vast amount of information available on the Internet, and the frustration in being able to find the actual data. Files often need to be opened just to find out what they contain, so the lack of metadata hurts the search process. Conversely, another disadvantage in GIS is the lack of data available. In my project, I have had a frustrating time finding the data relating to a small Wisconsin town. It's not the census data that's the problem, it's finding a large-scale map of the town itself. I have contacted officials of that particular area involved with GIS, yet they've been of little help, though their willingness to help is heartening. One official says that data is even difficult for him to find, simply because of the proprietary nature of the data sets at the county level. The data sets are hard to get because the creators want to be paid for their work, which is understandable, but doesn't help me much. Therefore, the proprietary nature of data sets creates an obstacle in obtaining them. Another disadvantage of GIS is the high skill-level needed to use it.

Pros: The cost of GIS hardware gets cheaper by the year, even as the data sets gain in price. The manipulability of the data in map-making is one of the greatest strengths of GIS. Another advantage is that a map producer can bipass publishers. Yet another advantage is in the transferability of the data sets.

Other issues: In order for GIS to improve, more datasets should be made available to the public. Maps created with GIS and posted on the web should include a forum for peer review or public scrutiny, like a message board.

I need to say that while aesthetics of GIS maps may be improving, we have lost much of the artistry in map making. That isn't to say that map-makers don't use a high level of creativity and artistry, but there's something about the tangible object that should be honored. Watercolors can't be reproduced on a screen, and neither can texture.

Preservation might also be a problem with GIS. What's worth keeping? Can data be easily migrated to new formats? How does this tool affect the digital divide? Dorling's book says that the main users of GIS are government agencies of "developed countries," yet their subject often seems to "undeveloped countries." Dorling sides with the perspective that this serves hegeministic purposes, and not altruistic purposes. Which, again leads me full circle to the motives behind the map makers, and how GIS can be used for positive and negative purposes, and is impartial in itself. Hammers can help build or they can destroy.

GIS: chief benefit, chief pitfalls

I'm going to take the risk of posting without reading the class contributions. I would imagine there is a broad consensus based on our readings.

The chief benefit of GIS to the user who is not either refining hardware or writing software, is that the process of creating maps, that is, layering of information, becomes transparent. I tend to look at a map or chart and leap to visualizing reality. The effect of looking at a map is almost as hypnotic as television. Single layers of information are experienced as a strand of meaning, almost a different universe. I'm thinking of the travel book by Wm. Least Heat Moon called Blue highways, where he chose to drive across the US using highways rendered in blue, on the assumption that these were the back roads. Sure enough, this arbitrary limitation meant that he met a lot of marginal characters, so that his prose map of American society looked quite different from the freeway interchange view.

This week's lesson seems to be that data in tabular form are neutral: they have to be restructured to generate meaning, or to convey an intended message. Using GIS makes one aware that this is true, and that altering the appearance of the representation of the data alters the apparent reality depicted in the resulting map.

The chief pitfalls of GIS lie in the fact of a digital divide, that although Internet access is in theory universal it is only general and expanding, limited to consumers, institutions, and business. At the GIS discussion group at ALA, the GIS and map librarian from Princeton and others were discussing user expectations that libraries can deliver a high-quality, detailed map product to support their research with rapid turnaround. The Princeton guy pointed out that the public do not realize that a project may require 2 to 3 hours in one sitting, and several days of follow-up to be refined. Doing it right effectively limits public access, because most staffs are too small to provide a good, custom service to more than one user at a time. As with most computer applications that involve a product that goes beyond text (electronic music comes to mind) the difference in time of execution between a "one-off" that accomplishes a limited task and a product that makes full use of the software is major, and beyond the interests if not the tools available to casual users.

In connection with this problem of making an elite product available to the public, GIS is vulnerable to governmental and other proprietary control over access to data. As the article on community groups in the Twin Cities pointed out, the empowerment achieved by these groups through using GIS to make their cases is only as great as their access to reliable data generated by local government--information dependency on the same institutions that the groups are trying to influence is like the predicament of the toddler tied to a clothesline so that he won't run out of his mother's sight.

Marxists used to make cartoons of the "pyramid of oppression": now we have the pyramid of information control. This is a major concern with the Federal mapping agency now known as NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, http://www.nga.mil/portal/site/nga01/), who invited public comments last November on a proposal to remove aeronautical charts from public, free distribution. There was a conference call held last Tuesday June 21 between NGA representatives and CUAC, the Cartographic Users Advisory Council, http://cuac.wustl.edu/ , about this issue. It sounds as if the government is trying to be threatening while they gauge from public reaction how much the cartographic user community is willing to pay for this information. At the moment, the threat is no more than that, but it is dangerous when government decides to test its ability to apply power that is only latent most of the time. Instead of the access to information we have in liberal society, which is relatively open but also limited in various ways, the will of the government to use information access as a lever poses the worsening problem of noncommunicating circles of information closed along the various lines of social demarcation.

The connection between the GIS benefit of process transparency and the pitfall of the digital divide is that power and economic relationships affect both access to information and the prospect of learning something from the information.

Benefits and Dangers of GIS

I think that the greatest potential benefit of GIS is the ease with which maps can be generated, altered, layered, and transported to other people. In class we've seen how quickly a map can be created and layered with data. Maps can be kept up to date on a more frequent or regular basis and people can send and receive maps within minutes. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this "ease" besides creation and transportation is the ease of manipulation. The ability to turn on and off layers of data and zoom in and out makes it possible to find information in the map that was perhaps hidden when viewed in a different way. A map maker can look at data on a map in different ways and quickly see how various classifications and projections can make the data tell a different story on the map. One would hope that the ability for the map maker to see this so quickly lead to more care in how he or she is representing the data on the map and making sure it is telling the "right" story.

This leads me to the danger of GIS, and I think I'm echoing Natalie when I say that the benefit of GIS ease can also be its downfall. As I said, one would hope that the ease of manipulation and ability to quickly view the map in a wide variety of ways would encourage the making of maps that tell a roughly unbiased story (as we've discussed in class, there is always some kind of world view or bias that sneaks in). However, I think that the ease of using GIS also makes it easier for the map maker to tell only the story that he or she wants the viewer to see. Because the maps can be made so quickly and transported so easily, this also leads to an overload of invalid maps. The danger here is that, as others in the class have suggested, people don't necessarily critically evaluate maps and will probably believe at least some aspects of the maps they are seeing.

The ease of transporting the maps can also be a danger because it is only easy to transport the maps digitally if the receiver has the correct technology. This automatically leaves the technology poor digital map poor and leaves more room for the biases of the GIS rich to be integrated into maps without question or consideration.

Thursday assignment

GIS, as Dorling and Fairbairn write, is a very democratic medium. Mapmaking is no longer reserved for the wealthy, the government and the military. Anyone with access to data and GIS software can make a map. The maps can be made and used by individuals, neighborhoods, libraries and city planning groups. Increasing amounts of data for the maps are publicly available. The maps can show numerous layers of data and the layers can be turned on and off. GIS maps are easily changed and updated. Furthermore, maps communicate the creators’ ideas and goals differently, sometimes better, than text and statistics. Maps allow data to be seen. The greatest potential benefit of GIS belongs to community groups working to improve their cities and neighborhoods. Maps help groups carry out their tasks and are used to propose projects and solicit funding from city government.

GIS, however, is very labor-intensive. Libraries that implement GIS, for example, need a large amount of time for training staff and for instructing users. They need the proper hardware and software. They also need money. Despite the decreasing costs of GIS software, it is still expensive. Not all libraries can afford it, let alone community groups. Also, GIS shares the same risks as other digital information: systems crash, files get lost and information is not preserved. The greatest potential threat of GIS is its tendency to emphasize an area over an individual. Rather than serving people based on who they are and what they do, GIS causes people to receive service based on where they live.

GIS Pro/Con

I want to add to Christy's idea that map "readers" need to apply critical reading skills and tactics. Selected readings from this week made me ask if we needed to take criteria for evaluating websites and apply it to maps, especially maps created with GIS--further, those presented in electronic format on the Internet. These criteria are: Who is the stated author (what are their credentials)? What organizational affiliation does the author have (or is it a geocities site)? What is the purpose of the author/sponsoring organization(educational or other)? And so on...All the criteria helps to decide if the source is reputable, and the information valid. Anyone find any blatant abuse of GIS mapping capabilities on the web?

I think the strength and weakness of GIS is its malleability. Ultimately, the individual creating the maps has authority over the information presented, the visual message created and overall effect. This flexibility is not a characteristic associated with maps, pre-GIS. For me, it was a shift to consider maps as a medium for combining and creating data, taking maps beyond a representation of the already known. A classmate posted that maps are often taken at face value, and I am an example of that, previously approaching maps without an evaluative eye and pretty much taking what I was fed. Working with GIS has exposed the weakness in that approach, and it is not just relevant to electronically created maps. As Dorling and Fairbairn point out, map propaganda is evident/present in textbooks!

The ability to instantly alter and create maps in (somewhat intuitive) computer software makes mapping available to an exponentially larger audience. The persuasive and powerful presentation effect of GIS should not be ingnored. The functions and possibilities of GIS are many, and this also creates some questions. Why is GIS not used more (by the public at large)? Will there be a day when a GIS map is as commonplace in a SLIS classroom as Power Point slide? Is the price attached to GIS suites purposely restrictive? Just how extensively is GIS used in private business?

The Good, the Bad, and the Geographic Information System

GIS has many potential benefits, including increased accessibility of data/information to non-experts (especially in a time when a vast amount of data is available via the internet), its advanced capability for “real-time” problem solving, and the digitization of data. This digitalization allows us to easily transmit, store, process, and analyze information at, literally, the click of a button. And because GIS digitizes data, it allows integration and assessment of data from multiple sources. As we’ve learned in class, the combination of demographic and geographic data from the Census Bureau, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and the Madison Public Libraries yields us with very informative maps that would otherwise, with use of only one data set, be telling only part of the story. It allows us to combine the variables that we feel are important to our study to make a map meaningful.

But this is also GIS’s downfall. While potential pitfalls include the quality (or accuracy) of data sets, its greatest danger comes from the manipulation of data and the assumptions that are made during the process. GIS strives to be objective, and while the computer applications might be, the humans who are compiling the data and generating the maps are far from objective. We all have an agenda, a bias, a slant – humans don’t really like being wrong and we want to show that our hypothesis is true. Using GIS and integrating data from multiple sources, we end up with an array of variables that we can either select for or select against when generating a map. You get to play around with the variables, trying different sets (such as zip codes versus census tracts) until the map looks the way you want it to look. It also allows you to easily ignore (or manipulate the ranges of data) for variables. Deciding how to combine information will yield different results for different people – the information is still all the same, but you choose the variables and format you want to present to tell the story you want to tell.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

People Are Too Often Map Illiterate

I want to pick up on what umaysay had to say about the visual appeal of maps in general, and GIS in particular. I think GIS's most potent weapon is its ability to convey a lot of complex data in an arresting, visually captivating fashion. Humans are, by nature, a very visually oriented species. Think about how we judge the world around us based on visual cues. Look at how quickly and tenaciously visually oriented media has captured viewers. We watch more TV, play more video games and are drawn to the Internet, not just because there is a wealth of information, but because it is presented in a graphical fashion that appeals to us. We judge the world around us on what we see, sometimes for good, if we find an artist we like, sometimes badly, if we let what people look like, or the color of their skin, be the sole factors we base our decisions on. So GIS is very powerful in that it appeals to our visual sense.

The other problem is that there is a perception that maps are "authoritative." I think this comes out of a few different areas. One, maps were not easy to produce. They were labor-intensive and expensive, so maps tended to be products of the elite - or the government. While there are plenty of people who have a natural distrust of those entities, by and large, they are considered reliable sources of information. Although maps have gotten easier to produce and more ‘average’ people can make them, I think there is a mentality holdover from this earlier age, where maps are taken at face value and assumed to be factual representations of the world according to the entity that produced them.

This brings me to my third point, which is that people are mapping illiterate. Students who come to college have critical reading/thinking skills drummed into them (or they should have had). We are taught (in theory) from an early age to read and think about text in a critical fashion. (Who wrote it? What is their angle? Who is the publisher? Are they known for quality?) Even if we don't always apply our critical thinking skills, at least the concept is there. The expression, you can't believe everything you read, is at least part of our semi-conscious life. But how to critically think about maps is something I've never encountered, and I daresay unless you have some specific classes in geography or mapping, you may never have that experience, let alone have had training in how to read them. So you have a populace on a whole that is inclined to like visually oriented material (and GIS definitely has a "wow" visual factor). They think that maps are authoritative and objective automatically, never mind that Joe Schmo just threw together a map using GIS. Plus you have people who don’t really understand mapping and all the complicated factors that play into it (what scale and projection mean) let alone understand how to critically evaluate them. With this you have a recipe for disaster.

GIS can be a wonderful asset to show things that could never be visualized before, and it can be a powerful tool to convey your argument or story, but those same strengths can be troubling, when the ignorance and tendencies of the audience can be knowingly, or unintentionally, exploited.

Who wants to use GIS for what?

I’d like to say that the single greatest potential benefit of GIS is to give a powerful presentation effect with such visual methods as map and data. In particular, the way of representing human geographic characteristics with GIS appears to be very intriguing and persuasive to the audience because GIS can show the aggregated nature of individuals in a certain area. It seems that nobody would seem to refute the outcome from GIS with their own belief and legitimacy claim because the presentation with GIS seems to be objective and scientific.
However, this strength can easily become the very danger of GIS because GIS, like any other technologies, can not help reflecting on user’ or sponsor’s intention or assumption. Once we decide the research topic and hypothesis, there is not much possibility to be free from our assumption on the research target. Likewise, the research tool also can not help being used for verifying the researcher’s assumption. Especially, since GIS costs the user a lot of money, it is not likely to be employed fairly in terms of social economic status. That means that financially available individuals or groups are more likely to use GIS for their purpose than the individuals or groups who are not. Currently, we are noticing that business area tends to use GIS for market analysis. They try to reduce human natures to a certain degree based on and collected information and geographic boundaries. GIS really helps market decide their marketing strategies just in order to make more profits or survive in competition. In addition, government can use GIS for social surveillance and control. As you know, the Bush administration has been enjoying information surveillance in the name of Patriot Act. They must use GIS to seek potential criminals or terrorists. On the other hand, this encroaches on human right of privacy to a great extent.
In sum, I think that both potential benefit and danger of all technologies including GIS depend on user’s norm and goal. NGOs as well as corporations use GIS for their own purposes. This fact demonstrates that the GIS can be used for a variety of intention and assumption. Then, what is matter? At this point, I think that it becomes the matter of philosophical assumption of technology. In particular, ethical assumption or critical consideration of technology must be discussed with regard to GIS use. I believe that the ultimate use of technology must be towards contributing to human beings’ emancipation. Emancipation is not a huge topic. I think that emancipation is to lead us to think more critically before we accept our reality per se. Therefore, I think that we can GIS for human emancipation not for dehumanization.

Greatest Benefit/Danger of GIS

The single greatest potential benefit of GIS is its ability to combine several kinds of data and for the user to view it visually. Data that could be temporal, photographic and real-time could be brought together and seen together. There is a kind of synergy that comes from combining data is this visual way that is difficult to narrow down on, otherwise. You can make queries using other kinds of databases but you need to use your imagination to understand its results, which can have limitations. Indeed, as Anne Seidl demonstrated, linking different sets of data provide you with new data that you did not have in the first place. With a GIS, you can see the changes happen in front of your eyes—and this can be a powerful tool for many “aha” moments. This combining of data also allows you to link data across several databases. In class, we saw how we combined textual/numerical data with physical shapes or polygons, pictures, addresses and so forth. GIS allows you to standardize data across several different kinds of data, as long as you have a way to link it.

The single greatest danger of GIS actually hinges on several things Greg spoke about in his lecture today, including things like ecological fallacy and spatial autocorrelation. And the danger lies forgetting that what lies before you are an approximation of some sort, of a larger and true universe. In other words, pictures, graphs, shapes, polygons, etc are a representation of some “thing” and in order to be able to adequately digest that thing, either alone or in combination with adjacent “things,” we make some judgements (for example, leave out something, like a the river line), or we make aggregations that do not hold true for a significant part of the universe (today’s income example). All these “short-cuts,” if not carefully documented could add up quickly and obscure in a wholesale fashion the data behind your GIS and thus any interpretations and actions you take from the GIS could be based on false or incorrect assumptions.

Some things I take away from GIS are:

You representation is only as good as your data (garbage in, garbage out). For example, measurement data using aerial photography is not accurate without adequate ground truthing.

Remember its qualifiers (We left out single males out of our database, why did we do that?) and what they might add up or take away from the GIS. Showing your methods reveal the data's strengths and limitations and give us a way to figure out the resulting GIS's usefulness.

Remember it is a graphic representation of a universe, not the actual universe (so, curves on a map may be simplified or exaggerated. This may not matter if you are looking a large-scale view, but if you are working on a small piece of it, that curve might make a difference, so scale plays a large role on maps.

Chapters for "Who counts?" book

For our book next week, Who counts? The politics of census-taking in contemporary America, I'd like you to read the following sections (and comment on them here in the blog before coming to class Wednesday):

Chapter 2, "The history of the US Census and the undercount"
Chapter 8, "The measurement of race and ethnicity and the Census undercount"
Chapter 9, "Toward Census 2000"
Chapter 10, "The saga continues"
Appendix J, "The administration of Census 2000"

Another Robinson Titbit

At the memorial get together to honor Arthur Robinson and David Woodword (history of cartography project), one of Robinson's advisee's (forget his name) had this to say: Arthur Robinson was commissioned by then President Roosevelt to make 4 copies of a world map for the purpose of war: One copy was for President Roosevelt, one copy for Churchill, and 1 copy each for the US and British state departments. This was so that they were on the same page (map!) as they plotted together to win world war II. "How to lie with Maps" brings on a whole new dimension as far as wars go... from bombing wrong civilian targets (Iraq) to maps that leave out important data or have wrong data.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Madison interactive map

I found this interactive web map of Madison that parallels the sites we examined 2 weeks ago. Its purpose is finding alternative transportation options, something useful to us all I'm sure! It has toggling options for types of transportation that you are willing to use.


Aso, I ran across an article in the June, 2005 edition of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers written by Denis Cosgrove that talks about the use of maps in the L.A. Times during the years between 1942-1945. There was a cartographer by the name of Owens (if I remember correctly) who made a map every week in this period. The rhoetoric of the maps is discussed in the article, and it includes lots of nice color and b&w images.

Online Maps That Steer You Wrong - New York Times

From an article in the NYT today:

As increasing numbers of travelers come to rely on the sites for directions (about four of five business trips are by car), they are discovering that computer maps can sometimes lead them astray.

Roughly 1 in 50 computer-generated directions is a dud, according to Doug Richardson, the executive director for the Association of American Geographers. He blames inaccurate road information for most of the failures.

'You have to have the latest data about road characteristics - things like one-way streets, turns and exits in your system in order for it to generate accurate directions,' he said.

Even if the streets remained static, online mapping would be an inexact science. Most of the major Web sites draw their data from a small group of competing suppliers and update their maps quarterly. They use a process called geocoding, which assigns a latitude-longitude coordinate to an address, to find a destination. Then their systems calculate the most efficient route. Each site handles the data in a slightly different way, which is why search results vary from mapping site to mapping site.

Explanations of fields in MPL data files

From Susan Lee of MPL, here are the official explanations of the fields in the data files they sent:

Here are the definitions for the codes in MPLSNAP13JUN2005xls, and all
the other files:

PSTAT codes are Patron Statistical Classes which correspond to the
official census tract information for that address.

CITY codes are 2 and 3-letter codes representing cities in Wisconsin.
These codes are meant to save staff time and ensure accuracy when
entering and modifying patron records.

HOME library is the library at which a patron first registered for a
library card. In our automated Dynix system, it also serves as the
default pick-up location. So, in some cases, a patron might ask
library staff to change his HOME agency to match that of his preferred
pick-up location rather than having to specify it each time he places a
hold. We use HOME agency to indicate which library "owns" a patron.
In the files we extracted, HOME agency also indicates the agency where
the check-out occured. It's somewhat confusing...I hope I haven't made
it worse!

based on PSTATs. The file was too large to be sent to me on the City
network, so Automation divided it up. Using these reports, the total
number of MPL patrons is 142,183.

Susan is going to FAX the lists explaining the actual codes used in each field to me, so hopefully they'll arrive before our class begins today.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Anne's project

I am interested in focusing on the Winnefox public library system, and in particular, Winnebago County and the Oshkosh public library. I think Oshkosh is the main public library in this system, and I would like to compare circulation rates among the various libraries in the Winnefox system, their budgets, and how many people travel to use the Oshkosh library. I want to make the argument that Oshkosh's budget should be increased. I know this is sort of vague right now, but I'm working on it...

Caroline's Project Proposal

I, too, am interested in the library's role in public education/programming/outreach, specifically in regards to the environment and conservation. Is it the library's job to teach us about the environment and encourage us to work to conserve it? (Well, yes, but . . .) I want to look at the locations of Wisconsin libraries in relation to the locations of state parks, nature preserves, etc. I will find out if these parks have libraries or information centers and if they do any public programming. (If not, maybe the closest library could take it on, or collaborate with the park.) I also want to look at library programming statistics - number, attendance, budget. I'm not sure how far to take the project, though. Say I determine that Library X does a lot of public programs, gets a lot of people to attend, has money and is near a nature preserve that does not do programming. Should Library X automatically do a program about the preserve? No. How does it know if people will show up? Should it cater the program to tourists, or those who live near the preserve? Census data, for example, won't tell me if the people who live near the preserve or Library X are interested in learning about it. Still trying to think this through and wondering where my cut off point should be.

Nick's project proposal: WI library landscape

For this project I would like to take on the hypothetical role of being a state public library administrator. Particularly after working with the Cartographer Guild’s historical atlas of Wisconsin, I am interested in looking at how access to information is distributed at the state scale. I want to make a map that would help a person in this position decide what public library branch or branches to close given a mandate to drastically decrease state spending on libraries. While I certainly hope this situation does not come to fruition, I think the project will give me an opportunity to think about the many overlapping spatial attributes that constitute the public library landscape in Wisconsin. By first setting up this analysis in a GIS, I will hopefully at the end be able to reach a decision that benefits not only the most number of Wisconsinites, but the best set of Wisconsinites. It is not politically correct to talk about valuing certain people over others, yet these are the decisions that future library professionals will potentially face. By stopping library service at one or more branches, people will be disadvantaged, but by careful geographical analysis the amount by which those who are disadvantaged can be minimized. This questioning engages nicely with what we know about “libraries and location,” although I frequently think of this topic as a way to figure out where to put libraries, not from where to take them away. In this project I do not intend to propose a specific branch or branches to be cut. Rather, I want to be able to spatially narrow the decision to a county so that more detailed, large-scale analysis could proceed with confidence. Although this study is hypothetical, its results could influence the selected county to reconsider what and how it is offerings are being undertaken.

What are the attributes of the library landscape that are important to take into account? In theory knowing every detail about the human and physical landscape of Wisconsin would give us the clearest picture of what to do, but this is of course impossible, so we must generalize. First, I will need to map all of the public libraries and branches using point representations. Next, I will need to consider which human and physical characteristics will give the clearest picture of where to cut a library in order to decrease the disadvantages. Since I am concerned with narrowing the cut to the county scale, these characteristics will be gathered at the county level. One attribute that is important to focus on is age demographics. Assuming a cut library branch will be permanent, it is important to consider high concentrations of youth as areas that will consistently demand library services for years to come. Related to this is the incorporation of population projections. Both of these are available through the online census from 2000. Another important thing to know is the spatial relationship of the libraries to non-public libraries, such as university libraries. A library that does not serve many people, but is the only source of free information for a large area is probably one that should not be cut – raw population numbers alone do not tell the whole story. Mapping university libraries along side the public libraries is one of my goals for this project.

In addition to mapping point locations of public and non-public libraries, and certain demographic characteristics at the county level, I want to consider other political jurisdictions such as the Wisconsin library systems. Knowing where to cut a branch may depend on historical situations that have developed with these political units. The data for the library systems is available through our course web page.

I realize that this project has little if nothing to do with Madison’s central branch dilemma as presented by Barb. I want to offer an idea for a map that echoes what she identified as the main goals of a reconstruction that do not involve aesthetic restructuring, but I don’t want to do it. I understood, as Ben pointed out, that her main points were more computer access and more children’s programming. Perhaps once philanthropists have been identified they could be convinced to give money with a map that shows the existing public outlets for these 2 things in Madison. Specifically I thought of mapping children’s museums as a way to show that maybe for kids there are not that many things to do downtown. Any thoughts?

Project Proposal - Natalie

Collaborative partnerships are changing the way libraries do business. The example of shared automated systems is my entry point to explore this idea w/GIS mapping. As of last year, all of Wisconsin's 17 public library systems maintain system-wide shared automated systems/union catalogs (except for maybe rogue Janesville?). This is a notable shift from each individual library operating its own system/catalog. The benefits of system-wide shared automation systems are many, as are the challenges. However, I am not going to focus on pro/cons of the current systems, I want to think about what the next generation of systems will be like and explore the feasibility of a statewide shared system/catalog. First, I will look just at public library system (PLS) information. I am aware that library systems (well, at least one) are participating in multi-type library consortia and this could lead me to considering academic/school libraries as well.

The current project outline includes creating maps to illustrate PLS areas, which automation system/vendor the PLS uses, and the "age" of the automated system. I want to identify which PLS are on similiar or same systems and which system are about the same age, to find possible compatibilities for a future migration. Also possibly interested in mapping cooperative partnership beyond automated systems. Other PLS shared activites for possible consideration of partnership beyond the PLS: delivery systems, electronic resources, centralized cataloging, multi-type consortia.

Data sources: PLS system data from DPI/DLTCL, Checkout sources identified in class w/public library information, Look for any current PLS director meeting notes, Use the SLCS delivery system info from their site, Possibly use WI population projections

Elizabeth's Project Proposal

Have you ever wondered if SLIS students have an advantage with access to library materials and services over all other departments? Well, I have.
The question I asked myself is: "Which academic department(s) have an advantage when it comes to provision of library collections and services? Which academic department(s) are at a disadvantage?"
Advantage (and conversely disadvantage) is defined by a number of variables:
1. Number of undergraduate and graduate students within each academic department (a variable that all other data will be relational to) (as of Spring 2005)
2. Distance of academic department to associated library
3. Distance of each department's Spring 2005 classes/classrooms to associated library
4. Each campus library's Spring 2005 hours
5. Each campus library's 2004-2005 FY budget
6. Each campus library's 2004-2005 FY budget spent on collections
7. Number of volumes held by each campus library
8. Number of active journal subscriptions in each campus library
9. Number of staff (including full-time, part-time, LTE, and students) in each campus library
10. Square footage of each library
While in reality there are many more variables to consider, I believe that these numbers will be easily attained within my time constraints. There are obvious flaws in this project. I'm missing a large user population by not including faculty/staff/research assistants, but that information is not easily available. In addition, there are many features within libraries that could be accounted for, such as reference desk hours, number of computers, etc. Also not included in this picture is data that deals with electronic resources, online reference, etc, because those numbers are hard to come by. But I'm satisfied that I have a solid base on which this project rests, and am waiting to see if SLIS students have a distinct advantage in regard to libraries.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Webester's book

Here is the descritpion of the Webster's book that I mentioned at the class. He explains a variety of scholars who deal with post-industrial or informational society. He also implies public library as public sphere, by borrowing Habermas' theoy of communicative action. I hope that you folks find something useful through this book.

Frank Webster (2002). Theories of the information society. New York: Routhedge.

Yong Jun's Project Proposal: the Madison Central Library Redevelopment Project based on the Wisconsin Idea

I’d like to choose this class project for Madison Central library redevelopment project and to approach to this project in terms of strategic communication. I am going to make a little big claim for the library’s vision with the concept of the Wisconsin Idea as I have emphasized it for the previous assignment.

Historically, the state of Wisconsin has cherished a good public value: the Wisconsin Idea. The public library might be able to use this concept to redevelop the library or the library system because public library is supposed to serve public interest with public education. In particular, the Idea emphasizes expertise for serving the public interests. If the public library is able to contribute to building a variety of expertise for community development and public interest, the library becomes to realize the great value of the Wisconsin Idea in the ways of public education. So, it would be a good fit to employ the Idea for the redevelopment project of the Madison central public library.

I think that it is always important to uncover a great idea or a concept to begin a substantial project along with empirical evidence to support the idea. For the first step, I think that project-involved persons need to define the main theme of the project and then to verify the theme with public opinion. If the theme doesn’t go with the public opinion, it has to redefine the theme from the public’s ideas. However, it is also very important to deliver the theme to the public discussion by enabling the public understand the theme sufficiently because the public might not know and recall the valuable idea or concept. It doesn’t come from an elite perspective. Rather, it is more like a self-help approach, which stimulates the public’s creativities and then organizes them in an appropriate way.

As for the data collection, frankly I am not sure what data are adequate for this project. I am thinking of the central library users’ location and circulation population data. How widely is the library used? If possible, the activities and the events occurring in the library other than book rental seem appropriate to make my claim. However, I am not sure whether those data are available. Is there anyone who is interested in this theme and is willing to work together with me? I will welcome whoever wants to do it with me.

Salim's Proposal: Madison Public Libraries

I propose to do a large-scale Madison Public Libraries project comparing the Madison Public Library-Central with its other branches. The object of this exercise, at least in theory is see if I can come up with a map or two that can further MPL’s objective of getting funding. Conversely, I could come up with a map that might argue against the expansion/new building for the MPL central library. Based on some data I collected during a project in the Public Libraries class last semester, I will pick and choose variables that can forward or retract from showing that MPL needs a new building. At this point I am considering a base map in Madison that shows all the libraries which could be proportional symbols—that increase on decrease based on the data or year.

The map will intersect between MPL-Central and its branches, and compare 1998 to 2004 data. I will try and test out the Sequoya anomaly and get to the bottom of what that means.

Some of the variables/data fields I will use are:

Program attendance

I think this is a realistic project and moves away from what I really would like to do—look at geo coded addresses and link them with circulation records at the street level, i.e. If we can get a hold of this data, there might be away to incorporate it into the above maps.

So in summary—two maps both on a very large scale, one that shows arguments for MPL-Central’s new building and another that argues against it. Once the GIS is done, I do plan to, time permitting, import it into adobe illustrator to increase its aesthetic appeal given that this map might be printed and shown in analog format. This represents a beginning to what we can do with the data—one could use this as a starting point to locate a new library based on population projections in Madison, update this data each year (and therefore the map) and look at how the dynamics of library users are changing.

Christy's Project Proposal

I was intrigued by the slides we saw Tuesday about library siting - in particular that four "classes" of people use libraries more often, i.e. the elderly, low-income, families w/children & students. I am interested in seeing if this claim is borne out by using mapping to get a visual picture of the situation. Statistics are rather dry. I'm hoping that by using census data and library use statistics for particular libraries and the populations that are near them/use them, I can find patterns that prove or disprove this idea, at least in the Madison area. For instance, if Alicia Ashman has high use, does the population that in theory 'belongs' to that library have a mix of any or all of those groups that would prove that claim? On the flip side, maybe there are areas of Madison that fit the profile but aren't served by a library in which case the map could be used to make a claim for a new branch. I'm hoping to use census data for the groups, although I am not sure whether it breaks out to students. As for library use statistics - I'm not sure if overall yearly use is already available or if I would need to get data from Barb. And of course I'll need a base map of the city and library locations.

Molly's Project

I also hope to do something with the central branch library for my project. I would like to investigate the claim that Barbara made about the Central library being a "downtown destination." My plan is pick a day or two when there are big downtown events going on and an "average" day when there is nothing all that spectacular going on and compare the "reach" of central library circulation on those days. By reach, I mean people who have other libraries as their "home" libraries, but who checked materials out from the central library on that day - much like the map that Barbara showed us in class. I would also like to see how many people visited the museums by the library on those same days to see if there is any correlation, something that could give weight to the fact that the library is a downtown destination for people who could have checked out libraries from their local branches (or not?). My greatest concern in making this a feasible project is getting the data to correlate on such a local street level in order to make the maps. I am thinking that I will focus on Saturdays because those are days when most people do not work and could have the potential to travel to a library further away than their own local branch. The Saturdays I am considering choosing from are the Saturday during the 2004 Taste of Madison, the WI History Family Style day at the historical museum back in March, or the Saturday during last year's art fair on the square.

Keary's Project Idea

I really want to do a project that can be applied to something after this class, so I would like to do something focusing on Madison Public Libraries to help out Barb. What I'm thinking of doing is taking a snapshot of one weekday and one weekend day and mapping the patrons who check out materials and comparing the Downtown Central Branch with Sequoya and maybe others if time allows. I would also like to campare the differences between weekdays and weekend days. I have no idea how ambitious these aims are though. Or how possible they even are.

LIS 810 GIS workshop project proposal

I'm interested both as a librarian and as an arts professional in the interaction of public libraries with cultural institutions and local cultural communities. But I think that finding data to support targeted library service for local artists is going to be difficult. I was struck in reviewing the American FactFinder site by the category of sole-proprietor businesses (which would include many artists); there are also categories for Nonemployers and self-employed people (I would assume that the same persons may have been counted more than once to generate these categories). So my research question at this stage is: what is the smallest census geographic entity at which one can locate (preferably nonretail, that is service-providing) self-employed, nonemployer, or sole-proprietor businesses--state, region, county, municipality, or smaller--to generate a map to support a recommendation for siting an information service for these individuals? I was thinking branch library, but we may be talking about a fantasy service more akin to County Extension as it functioned in the mid-20th century.

In addition to census data, I want to review the literature on library siting discussed by Christine Koontz along with that listed on the class site. This will help refine the question.

The key technical issue is how fine the unit of analysis can be made to generate results of local significance.

Ben's Project Proposal

Hi, everyone. I'm planning on exploring rural library service around Washburn county, where my family's cabin is located. As far as I know, no library exists in the particular town of Minong, and probably not within twenty miles. A lot of people vacation on the area lakes, and I believe that the residents and the vacationers would benefit from public library service. I'm pretty sure that residents either need to drive north to Superior, or south to Rice Lake in order to find a library. I would like to use GIS to map roads, education levels, industry, population distribution broken down by season somehow, and ideally, locations of cabins. A map of cabins might be hard to come by, but I can use a map of lakes and rivers, in addition to utility lines in order to generalize cabin distribution. Mapping the rustics and the people who don't live near water will be more difficult. I plan on using Factfinder and the Washburn county website, among others to try to find datasets. I will use a county-level scale, including the directly adjacent counties, along with town and resort scales if I can find datasets and maps at those scales. I'm open to any advice that people can offer.

Assignment 2 - WI Past and Present

I think it's very difficult to settle on just one map that is most important for state librarians and information professionals to understand. I feel that the Progressive era is one of the most important periods in our state history, so initially I thought a map that represents this would be great. The 1933 Milk Strikes map is used to represent this era, and while I think it's a very powerful map showing strikes by dairy farmers, it didn't seem comprehensive enough to truly represent the Progressive era (only in Wisconsin would people bomb a cheese factory!). Anyway, I settled on the Notable Strikes and Lockouts map as one that is very important for state librarians to understand. The map does a good job of showing Wisconsin's industries and locations. It also shows strikes and lockouts over time, not just during one era. The map paints an accurate picture of the state's labor movement over time, however the key and explanations are essential to this map.

Wk 2: A single map from "Wisconsin's Past & Present"

The comments posted thus far each take on a different tack and are really good. The book is, like Nick remarked, an excellent example of cultural geography mapped in and presented in a book like this. Another example would be the cultural map of Wisconsin put out by the State Cartographer’s office at:


But back to the assignment at hand: I like Elizabeth’s critique and her interpretation of the question but I take on a slightly different view of the assignment: the assignment forces you to make decisions on choosing a single map that is important to librarians. I agree with many no single map in there is very useful on it’s own, but could form as a “base map” to add more layers from other data that are pertinent to libraries. Often you need to make choices given the data you have – not the correct way of doing research, that is, you establish a research question, then find the data to help you, rather than, look at the data and then make your question. But research is a recursive process and limits of data, time, expertise etc, come into play.

First, I like to qualify my response by saying that I am looking to see how the maps serve the public, so I am coming from the public library domain. (In other words, the education system maps on p.88-89 are invaluable for academic libraries domain, and indeed, like Jeff said, they could be engines for economic growth, educate the populace, which might increase the need for public libraries). The map that I would choose that would help us in beginning to locate new public libraries and perhaps relocate existing public libraries is the Newest Arrivals (NA) map, p28. This was a tough decision because the Population & Representation maps (P&R) p82-83 is also important given the key role of politics and demographics in gaining support for libraries. But the P&R map is looking at broad trends and the NA map is looking at more current nuances in the population, especially new immigrants that lack social networks (family and friends that are established in the area) and I believe need the services of the library even more (this is critical as other “arms” of the government are not seen positively by new immigrants). The library could be then the only friendly face that represents their new country. Servicing this group is important because they often do the jobs many are not willing to do, and at the white-collar level, generate revenues that help bring in retirement incomes. The maps not only identify groups, but tells us a little bit about where they are from and how they got here. There is also enough granularity in the data (p.29), which breaks down, for example, the make-up of Asians by county. While just this on it’s own is not enough information to locate a new library, it does clue us in on where populations of different ethnic groups could grow, pushing the need for a library even further. Of course, the data can help us customize a library to a particular population—for example, the Alicia Ashman Branch of the Madison Public Library has a good collection of dvds of movies from South Asia, reflecting a large South Asian population living in that area. If now I had the “luxury” of a second map, I could certainly the P & R map to provide more broader demographic information, including the congressional districts and senators and representatives from a given area. This would give me a starting point to start the groundwork for applying pressure and getting funding for a new library (I realize that libraries are mostly funding at the local level, but the state legislature can play a critical role in diverting more of the state’s coffers to local districts).

Wisconsin's Past and Present

I chose the "Conflicts over Native Land Resources" map on page 15. This map shows the events that allowed the book's subsequent maps to exist (the Black Hawk War, for example) and that we are still seeing the consequences of the events (the fishing rights controversy, for example). It is one of the few maps not broken down into rectangles. The map implies the contradictions between Indians' notions of land and ownership and white Americans' belief that staking out squares of land for farms make a nation. The map's three squares showing reservations seem out of place. The map reminds viewers that Wisconsin was and is a contested land. This map needs to be viewed in context with several other maps, particularly maps showing Indian migration to Wisconsin (compare to white migration to Wisconsin?) and maps showing westward expansion of the U.S.

Tunnel vision

Focusing on one map as being the most important for librarians to understand puts one into a dangerous position of judgment, where actions taken from analyzing one single map can create drastic, unforeseen problems. Geographic areas are composed of complex interrelationships of elements being characteristics and attributes, relating to cultural and physical geography. One of the advantages of GIS, which we'll need to argue for later in this course, is its ability to layer attributes onto a map in order to expand one's perspective of that geographic region. Only the right combination of variables can shed light on one particular problem. Nevertheless, if I am to choose a map that is most relevant for library professionals in this day in age, I will choose the "Newest Arrivals" map on page 28. The reason is because recent immigrants are often the most in need of the services that libraries can provide, being at no cost to them. The dynamic nature of societies necessitates an awareness of librarians to those changes. As in the case of New York Public Libraries, there are programs offered to a multitude of ethnic backgrounds. These populations should have assistance in acclimating into our society, and libraries can provide much of this assistance. A close runner-up to this map, though, following Marxist criticism slightly, is the "Notable Strikes and Lockouts" map on page 75. I believe that one can tell a lot about a geographic region by the industries that the region supports. Additional information is needed, of course, but one can draw inferences from some of these trades, such as income-level, political activity, natural resources, and population densities.

Assignment #2

First, I must start with a critique of the assignment. I did not like the question -- "which single map in the atlas is most important for state library and information professional to understand." To me, this question was read as, "which single demographic do you, as a library professional, want to focus on." This seems to be a short-sighted view of reality. There are so many factors in play that no one map should be seen as "better" than any other. There are many useful maps that provide varying degrees of "useful" information to librarians - I hesitate to be exclusionary. "Wisconsin's Past and Present" is a very informative and useful reference tool, but it's real strength is when you look at the maps as a collection - then they tell a story.
That being said, the task at hand is to answer said question. Looking through this book, several of the thematic maps jumped out to me as a possibility, but I settled on perhaps the most standard map of all. "Population & Representation" (pgs 82-83) concerns itself with congressional districts, but gives the history of population in Wisconsin. Two maps are included, one from 1882 and one from 2002, which visually maps the movement and increase in population over time. There is also a very useful chart, "Wisconsin's Population, 1836-2000," which not only reports state population, but also charts percentage of population in urban and rural areas. Brilliant! I like this map (or series of maps and charts) because it is straightforward and there isn't much to "read into" this map. It tells us where people are, and where they're not. Combine this information of where libraries are, and where they're not, and information about the fastest growing counties/cities in Wisconsin - librarians have a very powerful tool at their disposal.

Week 2: The Wisconsin Idea

I found the Wisconsin Idea very interesting and useful for the state library and information professionals to employ for developing or redeveloping state library or library system. Along with the substantial evidences of historical, numerical changes, I think that a main value or theme is also very necessary to plan and realize substantial project. Since the Wisconsin Idea came from a historical transition, the Idea provides library professionals with a good rationale, which can help plan the (re)development of public library in the state of Wisconsin with a major theme. The Idea implies use of expertise for public interest and community development, and the expertise is backed up with strong public education. The map, which shows historical events in progressive era, demonstrates how Wisconsinite was eager to innovate on the social system in the early 90s. In a nutshell, I think that library professionals as well as the Wisconsin public might be inspired by the Wisconsin Idea and the historical events that was behind the Idea through the map presentation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Week 2 assignment: WCG Atlas

If I were a Wisconsin state library administrator who just moved to the state after being hired, I would find this historical atlas as a whole extremely useful for understanding the cultural and natural histories of Wisconsin. The atlas does a great job at providing a context for decision-making in the state. While I do not think that any one of these maps alone could accurately describe a population and its library and information needs, I do think the "Population & Representation" spread (pp. 82-83) is the one that would stick out at me the most as a state library administrator. Particularly, understanding Wisconsin's uneven population distribution and population shifts would give clues to the services that the state needs to focus on. By conceptualizing the Wisconsin population as one that has been moving from rural places to urban places over the last 100 years or more (as has much of the world), we can get a general idea of the changes in information needs that are occuring. Knowing, for example, that in the north part of the state large historic mining populations are gradually becoming urbanized might change the emphasis of certain collections. Spatial flows of information at the state scale require abstracted views of populations - what is the location of a certain group of people with a generalized set of characteristics? Knowing this, not the detailed demographic information that city surveys or census tract data may provide, is what state administrators would probably be most concerned with, and is where this map spread excels. I feel that Jeff's post about the "Educational System" spread would be my second choice because it is another avenue that gives us clues about the characteristics of populations throughout the state.

Week 2 assignment, GIS workshop

The Wisconsin's Past and Present atlas emphasizes peoples, both indigenous and immigrant, then traditional geographic categories like land forms, land uses, and commerce. Traditional narrative history is bypassed in favor of a variety of topics in the categories of boundaries and political movements. I don't see a map dedicated to the Civil War, for example, but there are a number of index references to it. The focus of the atlas reflects the fact that it is a cooperative effort with multiple authors, structured with general subject maps complemented by maps on a narrow topic, which are intended as examples to be expanded on by future mapmaking.

The most useful single map for librarians shows institutions of higher education in 2002 ("Public and Private Colleges and Universities, 2002," pp. 89, in the section, "Educational System"). While earlier maps dealing with population segments, voting behavior, et al., might be helpful, this map shows the locations of UW system 2- and 4-year campuses along with private colleges and technical schools. Besides points on the map indicating each institution, Technical College system districts are shown by shading around a headquarters indicated by a diamond. It's a current truism that educational institutions stimulate economic development, a truism which is mostly fact. A library planner can anticipate that educational institutions will bring students and faculty to a city, and that these people will demand services and cultural amenities that can be predicted. They will have an impact on local school systems; they will affect information use in the community. These effects can spill over into the public library. As institutional libraries grow, they will change the public library environment and thus alter services and collections over time. On a finer level, library planners can look at the type, relative size, and mission of institutions and have a sense of what kind of student and faculty population they are getting. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a large international faculty which makes Madison one of the most cosmopolitan small metropolitan areas in the United States. It would not be out of place to have at least some "high-brow" literature in foreign languages in some of the city's branch libraries. On the other hand, in Mequon, the needs of faculty at the local Technical College will be somewhat different from those of professors at Concordia University Wisconsin of Mequon, a four-year private college run by the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Reactions to Barbara Dimick's presentation?

Post reactions, discussion, and ideas concerning Barb's presentation on the Central Library campaign here.

General comment

No comment on any specific post by a class member. It is very helpful to compare experiences because each of us goes about searching differently.

What stands out in all the sites is the stark difference in audiences addressed. The Social Explorer site does a lot of the work for the user, and is not afraid to teach something. The commercial sites come as advertised, and do not get in the user's way. The clumsiness of Geography Network stems from the formidable amount of information it contains, something for users of many different levels, and showing the non-profit origins of the company. Curiously, the National Atlas and the HUD sites made more elaborate claims and delivered less than the commercial sites and especially the excellent Wis. DNR site (linked to ESRI).

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Reactions to web site: ESRI Geography Network

Reactions to ESRI Geography Network below...

Reactions to web site: USGS National Atlas

Reactions to USGS National Atlas ...

Reactions to web site: Microsoft TerraServer

Post reactions to the Terra Server below

Reactions to web site: Google Maps

Post comments on Google Maps below.

Reactions to web site: HUD houses and communities

Post comments on the HUD site below.

Mapping Web Sites

NYT/NSF Social Explorer, HUD, and the USGS sites had the most manipulable data for mapping. Google Maps had impressive speed and granularity, as well as colored satellite imagery, but it's function seems restricted to location. It seems impossible to apply any layers aside from plotting restaurants or types of businesses over the map. Therefore, the scope was far more limited than USGS, HUD, and NYT/NSF. I found it interesting that by selecting "maps" on the USGS site, I was led back to TerraServer. I liked the internal folder hierarchy of HUD, as it seemed very intuitive, yet also loaded with data. I had difficulty with ESRI's Geographic Network. This one seemed like a sort of pathfinder, or metageography site. Mapping abilities are minimal from the site directly, and selecting one of the links leads to a sort of bibliographic record, complete with some Dublin Core-like metadata. While both HUD and USGS had a lot to offer in map-creation, USGS's granularity lacked what HUD and NYT/NSF provided. I couldn't get closer than a county level. I would consider these last three sites to be GIS systems because of the ability to manipulate data in order to see correlations, but the functionality of the the other sites seemed too limited to me to be considered strong tools for GIS applications. Aside from that, Google Maps works great for locating an address and businesses near that address quickly. Overall, I think that HUD and NYT/NSF were most useful at a street level, and USGS was most useful at the county/regional level.

Reactions to web site: NYT/NSF Social Explorer

Post reactions to the Social Explorer web site here!

UW-Madison Data and Program Library Service

For those of you interested in the general issue of finding, understanding, and providing data sets to library patrons (or just interested in finding good data for your GIS projects), visit the web site and get on the mailing list of the UW-Madison Data and Program Library Service. Their monthly newsletter (in print or online) is packed with the latest tidbits on new governmental and non-profit data sources available to researchers and citizens, with lots of mini-tutorials and useful definitions along the way.

Comments on Ann Seidl's presentation?

Folks wishing to discuss Ann Seidl's presentation from yesterday can do so by leaving comments on this post. (I'll invite Ann to the weblog as well so she can have a chance to reply to any comments.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Possible GIS-related job

Got this announcement last week and told these folks that I'd ask if any of my summer GIS students were interested. So I'm asking. Here's the info:

We (Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility, a GIS research center within CALS) have a collection of books and documents covering 30-plus years of the evolution of land and geographic information systems. I say "collection" guardedly, because this is really several bookshelves and many boxes from the careers of retired faculty. However, I think this is a unique set of material that could be of considerable interest and value if it were better organized.

Do you have a student or students that might be interested in taking on this task? We're happy to pay whatever the going rate is for such service. Time frame is not critical, though of course we'd be happy to have a little less clutter sooner rather than later. Please cc: Brooke Seeliger on your reply; she is LICGF staff who would be the day-to-day supervisor.


Steve Ventura

Stephen J. Ventura
Chair, Department of Soil Science
Professor, Environmental Studies and Soil Science
Director, Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility

University of Wisconsin-Madison
1525 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706

phone: (608)262-6416 fax: (608)265-2595

Monday, June 13, 2005

Lab hours for project work

SLIS library director Michele Besant is doing her best to keep the SLIS computer lab open through the four-week course so you can work on your projects outside of class time (and I will offer time during class for you to work on projects as well). However, with the continuing UW budget crisis, we can't keep the lab open as long as we'd like (please write your state legislator on that one). Here are the hours for the next four weeks:

June 13-July 10
Mon-Thurs 8-5
Fri 9-12
Sat 12-5

Closed Monday July 4

Please note that there are no other classes currently scheduled to use the lab in the mornings, so that time should be open to GIS work on a first-come, first-served basis. Also the hour after class ends is open for lab work, so you can just stay on your computer and plug away. Finally, note that Friday afternoons there are no official lab hours (although there may be informal access to the lab if Michele happens to be on hand).


Folks, as practice using the weblog, and also just as a Good Thing To Do, I'd like each of you to leave a "comment" to this post below, introducing yourself to the class. Nothing longwinded required -- just who you are, what you study here at UW-Madison or what you do when you're not a student, and why you decided to take such an odd class combining computer mapping and libraries.

Update: Books and articles

When I checked last Friday before classes started, all four textbooks were available in the University Bookstore. The xeroxed course reader should be available Monday after class gets out at ASM StudentPrint in the basement of Memorial Union (they're open until 4:30 so get there right after class). It should cost under $20. Don't worry if you don't get your hands on a reader until Tuesday; your main task this week is working through the "Getting to Know ArcView" book so that when we practice with the program in class, the terms and tools are familiar to you. You can catch up on the rest of the reading over the weekend. See you later today.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Hi folks, we'll be using a weblog or "blog" this summer in LIS 810 to both trade GIS secrets and data sources, and to engage in dicussion of readings and current events related to maps, libraries, and communities.