Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dear New York Times, Please Mention GIS

A marvelously illuminating article appeared in the New York Times today about that fact that the five boroughs of New York City are actually, measurably 17 square miles smaller than the planners previously calculated. That's a lot of hectares! How did the current city planners find out that geographic information, you might ask? "Using aerial photographs and advanced technology, including software that that enabled geographers to compensate for inaccuracies created by the pitch and yaw of camera-equipped planes." Sounds like they used Google Earth. But we know that they couldn't have used Google Earth because Google Earth can be highly inaccurate precisely because of "pitch and yaw" thing.

Anyway, it's an article worth reading. Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg kept a lot of GIS professionals in business for this project because of his "yen to precisely measure everything from poverty to traffic congestion." Really?

The New York Times historically skips over the fact that cool mapping application are done all on account of GIS. I'm happy the Times reports on geographical projects, but I always wish they'd just kind of mention how the maps got made.

Remember the Times article on human impacts on the oceans?

Or the Times article about wildfires and the cool computer modeling that can track those fires?

And when the NYCMap came out a couple of years ago, the Times actually used the acronym when referring to “Cogis (Computerized Geographic Information System),” but how the wonderful layers of New York City geographic data where assembled, analyzed, and obviously, according to this new article, mis-measured, remained a mystery. Here's my response to the Times' article (before I was blogging, now I rarely send in letters to the NY Times).

So it’s all the GIS consultant’s fault anyway. Maybe it’s best if the Times doesn’t refer to our profession by acronym after all.

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