Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mid-Hudson GIS Users Group Meeting

All mid-Hudson GIS users (preferably in academia), are invited to our second regional meeting on Monday, April 9th at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. The meeting will begin in the GIS classroom at the Henderson Technology Laboratories building at 9 a.m.


9 a.m. Introductions and Welcome

9:15-10:15 a.m. “GIS at Bard College: Now, and Possibilities for the Future”
-- Mark Becker, GIS Professor, Bard Center for Environmental Policy (BCEP) and Director of Geospatial Technologies, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Earth Institute, Columbia University

10:15-12 p.m. Open Discussion
--To read the minutes from the first regional meeting, please visit

12-1 p.m. Lunch at Ward Manor House Café*

1-2 p.m. “Bard Unearthed” Campus Tour – Egyptian temples? Mayan ruins? Discover the rich and hidden (and sometimes bizarre) history of the Bard Lands and how GIS helps reveal it.
-- Christopher Lindner, Archaeologist-in-Residence, Bard College

*Lunch will be provided for all participants. No registration fee is required, but pre-registration is recommended so we can have a head count for lunch. Contact Sharon Kopyc, Coordinator of Curriculum Support and Instructional Technology, Bard College, , (845) 758-7496.

For any additional questions, please contact Susan Winchell-Sweeney, BCEP teaching assistant and applied GIS consultant, Bard College, or

Monday, March 26, 2007

If Only There Was Google Earth Way Back When

Ogle Earth pointed out a really great site for Utah geology. The Utah Geological Survey has available a really spectacular KML file of about 15 beautiful, geologic wonders in the geologically wondrous state of Utah. It's not to be missed. The placemarks are terrific, with lot's of information and photos and could be easily used in an earth science class. Look for the inverted topography (above photo) and the sand dunes. Keep the Panoramio photos turned on in Google Earth so you can see even more geologic splendor.

I did my geology field work back in 1993-4 in southwestern Utah using boots, a paper map, a Brunton, pencils and Rapidographs. Yeah, those were the days. Couldn't afford aerial photographs. Now you can get them for free. By the way, I mapped a section of the Hurricane fault, discussed on the Utah Survey's web page in a recent report. Wonder if my work is mentioned??

So, since I was taking a stroll down memory lane, I just had to go ahead and make a KML of my field area to share with the world. If you care to know where I spent a long, hot summer back in 1993, take a look at this KML file.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Recommended Article on Cybercartography

Thomas Hill, Vassar librarian and the Library Café host, mentioned a terrific piece in first monday, the "Peer-reviewed Journal on the Internet," called " Many, many maps: Empowerment and online participatory mapping, " by David L. Tulloch and I thought I'd pass it along to recommend it and make some comments.

In the article Tulloch talks about public participatory or community-generated mapping as he discusses three different on-line mapping applications that he is terming cybercartography. As a little aside we had Sébastein Caquard give a talk about cybercartography a few years back. Caquard is referenced, along with his colleague, D.R.Fraser taylor, as coining the term.

Tulloch uses three points of reference in his discussion - Google Earth and Google Maps API and their many fans, the CommonCensus Map project, and Second Life as a way of changing the environment. He argues that these free, online, web-based, utilities empower individuals and make accessible spatial information and will succeed at democratizing spatial data, through access and creation, especially for marginalized groups.

In discussing Google Earth and Google Maps , Tulloch talks about the robust on-line community of users who put up all their KMLs and KMZs that they find interesting. As a reflection of the web itself, some of these "maps" are very worthwhile but some are just silly. But we can all go to the bulletin board and search the files and see what's been done. I just took a look at the board and there are 755,041 registered users. That's a lot of geography going on and that doesn't include all the anonymous users of the site who just want to download KMLs. Tulloch says that the popularity of these web-based mapping tools is based on "their price and their exceptionally user-friendly design." Absolutely. He also gives props to the Keyhole Corporation, the original developer of Google Earth. Oh, and of course, there's the access to Google Maps API for anyone to make their own mash-ups.

Oddly, Tulloch does not mention other virtual globes out there, NASA World Wind, Celestia, Virtual Earth come to mind, but add those to the growing list of cheap and easy on-line access to geospatial information.

With the CommonCensus Map Project, an American expat living in Brazil without formal geospatial technological training has created a unique way of mapping the U.S. by having visitors to the site enter their zip code and choosing a metropolitan area that they closely identify with. As Tulloch writes:

"It is quite telling that an individual can single-handedly develop such an interface and collect these data from over 40,000 participants (while living thousands of miles away) without the imprimatur of a geography degree or the support of an NGO. Allowing this massive audience to actively participate in the collaborative mapping of boundaries for their landscapes is an act of empowerment."

And in his final example, Tulloch discusses the use of Second Life as a development space for creating a park using public participation. The architects of this park are all local Queens community residents who have been invited to join in with their avatars and teleport to Democracy Island.
By the way, with 4,352,860 "residents” Second Life has a considerably higher number of users than the Google Earth BBS. I'm not a Second Lifer (and it's not that I'm cynical like SOME people) but I am a huge Google Earth fan and my dream is to teleport an avatar in the "real" world of Google Earth. But it looks like I/we might be able to do that real soon with Unype.

One thing that Tulloch touches on throughout this article and I think is critical when using these web-based mapping tools or supporting their use, if you happen to be an academic computing type such as myself, is the aspect of using geospatial technologies without any standards in place. He states it nicely in his concluding remarks:

"...spatial technologies bring with them a more complex set of problems for which most Internet users are unprepared. Whether it is a problem with spatial map projections and coordinate systems or a misunderstanding of appropriate scales, it would be easy for a technologically enabled but spatially illiterate individual to assemble a disturbingly inappropriate application for public use."

It seems to me that public participation geographic information system (PPGIS) has evolved out of the earlier environmental justice work. Where researchers used GIS to look at locations of environmental hazards in communities and making assessments of their locations based on race, class, gender, age, income, etc., (a link to a PDF of a paper on GIS in Environmental Justice work ), we now see those same communities claiming the data as their own. Creating the data. Having a stake in the outcome of the research. Or being the one in control of the microscope. This is as it should be.

If you have good references on standards for use of Google Earth in teaching or the use of Second Life in teaching, I'd appreciate that.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

This should be good, if you're interested in Mobile Mapping

"Using Tablet PCs and Pen-based Technologies for Mapping; Teaching Earth Science applications throughout an undergraduate curriculum"

HP Online Speaker Series
Higher Education Technology for Teaching

28 March 2007
10:00 - 11:00 am Pacific Time

Please join us on Wednesday, 28 March, 10:00am - 11:00am Pacific Daylight Savings Time for a live presentation and discussion featuring Mark Manone, HP Technology for Teaching grant recipient and Research Associate/Instructor at the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences Geospatial Research and Information Laboratory, Northern Arizona University.

Abstract: The Department of Geology at Northern Arizona University uses tablet computers and mobile wireless technology in introductory courses as well as throughout our core curriculum. We have developed modules using tablet PCs for 5 introductory classes and 6 core classes. Examples for implications in these introductory classes are: drape geologic maps over digital topographic images to explore relations in 3D; use satellite images of planets to map craters and lava flows on Mars and the moon; view geologic disasters such as volcanic eruptions and hurricanes with satellite images of the same area before and after the event. In all of these examples, the pen is significant in the mapping and delineation portion of the exercise, as using a pen to show the barrier between gravel and bedrock is more accurate and more closely mimics traditional analog mapping techniques. This presentation will show examples of tablet use in mapping at the introductory, core course and field based levels. Results of assessment of learning will also be presented.

To attend, please RSVP at so we can send you login and phone details. All you need is a phone and an internet-connected web-browser. However, space is limited, so registration is available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no charge for this event.

We hope you can join us!

Jim Vanides, M.Ed.
Program Manager - Worldwide Higher Education Grants
HP Corporate Philanthropy
3000 Hanover Street ms1029
Palo Alto, CA 94025 USA

Monday, March 05, 2007

Save The Date - Mid-Hudson GIS Users Group Meeting

All you local GIS users (preferably in academia), save Monday, April 9, for our second regional meeting. The first meeting was last October. We will meet at Bard College from 9am to 2pm. Stay tuned for more information. You can also contact me for more details.