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Thursday, June 29, 2006

NY Times Article

This is the type of technology we talked about in class (last week? Tuesday? can't remember) that uses a cell phone as a "divining rod". Article is from the New York Times so the link will probably be dead in a matter of days, sorry...

With a Cellphone as My Guide

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Final Project

For my final project I have contacted the University’s “Friends of the Libraries.” I proposed to map the donations that they have received from Madisonians over the past three years. The group has asked me to look particularly at their donors that give above the $100 mark and I will be presenting my maps to the group’s board of directors at their first meeting in the fall. Wow, I’ve got a lot to learn in ArcView.

A problem in the mostly fun world of GIS

I am having a problem with adjusting the scale on the map for the homework today. I have no problem going into the properties of the map and adjusting the scale, but nothing happens after that. If anybody has figured it out and could give advice, I would greatly appreciate it.


Quiet map

This is a map of the quietest neighborhoods in London, pretty spiffy! I've never seen a map quite like it before.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Social Explorer vs National Atlas Map Maker

For making a map of one's neighborhood, Social Explorer wins. Unlike National Atlas Map Maker (NAMM), Social Explorer (SE) lets one zoom in closely into a neighborhood (showing street names). The best aspects of SE: it lets you create a slideshow of maps, it lets you zoom in closely and creates reports about the area based on census data, and all-in-all, failry easy to use. Some downsides to SE: the find tool isn't very helpful, it doesn't allow you to put in your own layers, and when you pick from the different maps (such as maps by age or marital status) it isn't clear what the changes mean in the map.
As far as interactive maps, NAMM allows one to put many kinds of layers on theirs. It's major downside is that it doesn't allow for a close zoom-in of an area. The best aspect is that it allows for some interesting layers (Superfund sites and bat ranges), though it isn't always clear what the symbols mean for those layers even with the map key function. I came to like NAMM a lot because of the fascinating maps one could create with it. It is far more interactive than SE.
All-in-all, they're both great tools for specific needs. If I need a map of my neighborhood with some data, SE could make it while NAMM couldn't. If I need a map invasive species land cover in the entire lower 48 states, then NAMM would be the one to use.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Toward an ethics of GIS: the human factor.

This post is in regard to our discussion last class period involving the ethical and political implications of GIS. Throughout history new technologies have always offered the potential to serve a range of interests and purposes. We may consider the outcome of these aims as good or bad, productive or destructive, community-serving or exploitative, etc. It is important to keep in mind, however, that usually these affects are not located within the technology itself, but actualized through its use. And the meaning and import of the use of technology is to be understood within a social and political field of power/knowledge.

The relatively recent rise of information technologies such as GIS has elevated our sense of apprehension because of how seemingly powerful they are. Indeed it is possible that these developments constitute a potential threat to our freedom and well-being that is greater than previous advances of technology (a question for further consideration). The degree to which this threat is actualized depends largely upon the people who develop and use geographical information systems. We have to take responsibility for it.

Do we need strong governmental regulations to keep people from harming each other with this new technology? Our answer to this question depends somewhat on our assumptions of human nature, and how human nature is sublimated through social norms, institutionalized law, and general codes of morality. Perhaps the community is a site that helps to strengthen a beneficial implementation of GIS. A good community may engender good people who will act responsibly and with care.

Do we need a tech savvy resistance to keep government from harming us with this new technology? This answer in turn depends on our estimation of our government. And that, quite frankly, depends upon one’s willingness to ask good questions.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

GIS evaluation software

It's quite possible that this GIS evaluation software will only allow 1 registration/activation. Therefore, individuals may not be able to install and use it on both home and work computers. I haven't had a chance to verify this, but thought I'd throw it out there. Install it where you definitely want it most (and if we're lucky we can activate it in additional places).

Updated: Lots of GIS terminals in Science Hall

Folks, at the Arthur Robinson Map Library on the 3rd floor of Science Hall (across the street from Helen C. White) there are five public GIS workstations, all running ArcGIS 9.1. Here are the summer hours of the map library:

Spring Interim & Summer hours:
May 14 - August 11, 2006

9:00am - 5:00pm
9:00am - 5:00pm
9:00am - 5:00pm
9:00am - 4:00pm

Our map librarian, Jaime Stoltenberg (who will be visiting our class in a few weeks) also had this to say about finding GIS workstations:

I am not aware of any other public lab that has ArcGIS besides the Map Library and our Geog Dept. computer lab up in Room M376 (which your students are more than welcome to use...I think there are 22 machines up there). Actually, there are a few in the Geography Library too...So, Science Hall is the place to be for GIS!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Questions about the readings

Dorling/Fairbairn Chapter
I was surprised by this information: "In most countries outside the USA the basic topographical and census data are copyright protected; the copyright is owned by the data collector (usually the state) and has to be purchased." (p. 126) I don't quite understand how topography can be copyrighted- if one can SEE a hill or a stream by walking past it, what is there to copyright? I could understand if satellite images were copyrighted, since somebody must own the equipment to create such an image. I guess it must be the data about the topography, rather than the topography itself, that has a copyright. This also leads me to wonder if, in the USA, GPS information is owned by anyone? I know that one has to pay a fee to receive a service such as OnStar, but where does OnStar get their information? Is there a monopoly of sorts on geographic data? Or are there many different companies/gvt agencies/universities/etc who all gather the same information to be used in different contexts?

I am also a little confused about the difference between GIS and GPS, particularly regarding commercial applications of geographic information. The last section of the chapter- "A critique of the GIS view of the world"- mixed me up. Do these two types of systems use the same data sets? Or does GPS feed into GIS? For example, when I hit the OnStar button in my car (which I have never actually done) is the person who answers my call looking only at my location, or does my location feed into a larger pre-existing picture that was created with a GIS?

Adkins/Sturges Article
This study reminded me of a website I used in a selection assignment for Collection Management last semester:

Wisconsin Public Library Statistics

The very last sentence of the article says, "Although GIS systems require an investment of time and money, the information they generate help create a more responsive public library." (p. 170) I admit that I am very new to the wonderful world of GIS technology, but I am a little skeptical about the wild differences and improvements in information consumption that the authors of this article claim. The website I linked to above is filled with statistical data, which could theoretically make huge differences in the operation of a library or library system if informed humans had the time to wade through it all. The Dorling/Fairbairn chapter pointed out that "systems are not cheap to operate, and this is before the costs of training and staffing are considered." (p. 128) So which is it? I am being overly skeptical for the sake of argument here, but is GIS analysis really that much more efficient/thorough/informative than an attentive human with a big ol' spreadsheet? Perhaps a little John Henry style challenge is in order...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Course reader available

"Your course reader for LIS 640 has been completed. It will cost $24.60 to the students. It can be picked up Mon-Fri, 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM."

So says ASM Student Print, basement of Memorial Union.


Hi folks, to get some practice navigating the blog, and to get some formalities out of the way, please introduce yourself to the rest of the class by adding a "comment" to this post (click on the "comments" link below). Make sure to tell us why you decided to take this odd GIS/mapping and information agencies class. Cheers, GREG