Thursday, January 31, 2013

Maps and Memes Talk, 6th of February 2013 at RHUL

UNESCO Chair/ICT4D Centre in collaboration with Politics, Development & Sustainability (PDS)  Research Group

Presentation & Q & A

 ‘Maps & Memes: Arts of Identity-Based Mapping & Mapmaking for Healing in Indigenous Communities’

Gwilym Eades
Geography, RHUL, PDS, ICT4D

Wednesday 6th February 1.00-2.00pm

Queens Building QB171

All Welcome

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

John Snow's Legacy

See below for a set of events on John Snow, discussed in GG3090 as a 'founding father' of epidemiology and GIS:
Posted: 29 Jan 2013 08:55 AM PST
John Snow (1813-1858) is an iconic figure in epidemiology and public health, best known for his pioneering work tracing the source of a deadly outbreak of cholera to a water pump in Soho, London. Visit the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in Spring 2013 for a series of events to celebrate the bicentenary of John Snow’s birth, his achievements and the new research that continues his legacy throughout society.
§ 15-16 March 2013: Mapping Disease
Discover the history of John Snow at a public lecture and reception on 15 March, followed by an all-day scientific symposium looking at historical aspects of his work on 16 March.             
§ 11-12 April 2013: Snow’s Legacy
This two-day conference will gather leading researchers in a contemporary evaluation of John Snow’s legacy and explore how epidemiology is influencing education, criminology and economics. The event will close with a panel debate chaired by Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow. A conference gala dinner will take place at the Wellcome Trust on 11 April with after-dinner speaker Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science.                
§ 13 March - 17 April 2013: Cartographies of Life & Death exhibition
Historical treasures and contemporary artworks inspired by modern science feature in this public exhibition exploring the significance of John Snow’s work.                    
All events will take place at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT.
If you have any questions, please enquire via email.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Situating Neogeography

The latest issue of Environment and Planning A has contributions by Matt Wilson, Mark Graham, Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchin, Wen Lin, Muki Haklay, Jeremy Crampton and a conversation with Michael Goodchild and Andrew Turner.

If you want to know what's going down in the world of the geoweb, this special issue is at the bleeding edge.  I'll be devoting some time this week to reading through these articles, commentaries and conversations.  Neogeography, volunteered geographic information, the geoweb, augmented reality and many other topics are covered.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Critical GIS and the Geoweb 2: Terminology

The following is a non-alphabetised glossary I wrote today for GG3090 class, prompted by a suggestion from a student.  It is an evolving document open to suggestions (the definition of 'map' might be contentious). I'm planning on adding some of these to the New Geoweb Wiki:

GG3090 Glossary
Georeferencing: using known points (such as road intersections) on a geographic information layer (such as a shapefile in GIS) to provide ‘anchors’ to an image with unknown positioning

Database: an information set, usually organised as rows and columns (or fields).  Explicit databases are those that are formalised in a written document or computer file

Map: a graphical representation of a portion of the earth’s surface

Projection: a mathematical procedure or formula for portraying earth-based (i.e. round) data on a flat medium such as a piece of paper or a computer screen

Topology: branch of mathematics concerned with attributes of surfaces that do not change when warped or distorted.  Inclusion, adjacency and connectivity are examples of three such attributes.  Vector layers in GIS require topology specification

Choropleth (map): a map made up of non-overlapping contiguous areas across which a value is evenly distributed as indicated by homogenous colouring of each area

John Snow (map): helped start the field of epidemiology, and an early example of a map ‘mashup’ (see below), John Snow’s map demonstrates the power of visualisation through maps in problem solving.  A distribution of cases of cholera combined with address information led to the identification of contaminated well water as the course of infection (and not air borne causes as previously thought)

Maps of, for and in cyberspace: maps of cyberspace depict material structures of cyberspace itself, usually in the form of numbers and strengths of connections across virtual or real space.  Maps for cyberspace help us understand immaterial aspects of cyberspace in terms of information space and social interaction.  Maps in cyberspace are essentially traditional paper based maps converted into a form (such as a .jpg file) that is uploaded (see the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography)

Ontology: branch of philosophy concerned with existence.  In computer science the term refers to a set of object specifications for use in an application.  A computer map of Cree land contains an ontology of lakes in which parts and certain configurations of lakes have their own categories

Epistemology: branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge and its acquisition

Representation: a mediating factor between an observer and the ‘real’ world.  A map is a representation of the territory it depicts

Mashup: the use of custom datasets on propriety platforms.  A Google Maps mashup takes user-made data and portrays it on a Google Map

Digital divide: a barrier or division, usually socioeconomic in origin, between the haves and the have-nots of digital information access

Geoweb: a set of geographically distributed services

Materiality/immateriality (of cyberspace): materiality includes the physical infrastructures that keep cyberspace ‘going’ such as cables, wires, hardware and bodies.  Immateriality refers to software, information, ideas and social relations that define empowerment or marginalisation in cyberspace

Semiotics: branch of linguistics concerned with sign systems

Map/territory: a mutually constituted set of practices for representing space.  Often the territory is assumed to ‘precede’ the map in the sense that the map represents territory and is therefore an objective portrayal of that territory.  A critical view holds that the map defines territory, producing social relations of human territoriality

Discourse: unspoken rules for producing statements of fact, fiction, science, culture or almost any conceivable aspect of human activity involving sign systems (see semiotics above)

Inscription: a written, recorded, printed, taped, digitally captured or otherwise ‘frozen’ representation of knowledge

Coordinates: a pair of numbers indicating a point (i.e. zero dimensional) location on the surface of the earth

Relational database: a database (see above) in which tables of information connect to each other through the use of primary keys, or columns of identical information found in two or more tables

Relational space: a space defined more by the relations between objects than by the objects themselves

Void space: a space defined more by positions (or coordinates) of objects and their attributes than by  the relations between objects

Wayfinding: travel towards a known goal through the use of landmarks, places and their names

Itinerary: a sequential list of places and distances between them used in wayfinding

Kml: keyhole markup language, the file type used by Google Maps and Earth

Distributed feature: an aspect of landscape that is mappable (i.e. has spatial extent)

Digital earth/virtual globe: an interactive representation of the earth in cyberspace that includes web 2.0 features (see below), as well as aspects of ‘traditional’ maps and atlases (e.g. place names)

Web 2.0: a worldwide web paradigm shift in which the user is able to define the look, feel and content of the resources and structures of cyberspace and the internet

Tracking function (GPS): a global positioning system feature that samples the position of a moving object (i.e. person) at a set rate and links these positions into a line

Waypoints: places encountered and recorded before or during the process of wayfinding

Visualisation: the use of on-screen graphics, maps or other spatial methods to display tabular data

‘Traditional’ GIS: usually refers to anything produced by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), the market leader in GIS software over the last few decades

Atomism: a database principle in which information is broken down into its smallest constituent parts

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Commemorative Landscapes of Egham (on the Geoweb)

All photos by Gwilym Lucas Eades

Today I went for a stroll through Egham to do a little geoweb experiment.  The work is not yet done, but the photos above give a sample of some of the memorial architecture I encountered during my walk.  One does not, I think, often see these structures all covered in snow.

The next steps involve downloading the GPS track and waypoints and converting them to kml files, which I will then add to Google Earth.  The photos above will be added to all waypoints as will the notes I took at each site. 

An excel file of today's 'itinerary' will be created and opened in GIS as well, with some base data, and both the GIS and Google Earth files will be used to compare and contrast ideas of wayfaring on the geoweb.  

This work is inspired by my reading of Catherine Delano-Smith's "Milieus of Mobility" in Cartographies of Travel and Navigation (U of Chicago Press, 2006), from which extracts will appear in the 29th of January lecture.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Geoweb wiki

Check out this new Geoweb wiki.  Students of GG3090 are encouraged to contribute.

To quote from the main page:

"The purpose of The GeoWeb Wiki is to provide an online depository or "place" for the collaborative development of geoweb terminology, ethicstheorization, methodologies, and other useful resources to fellow practitioners and scholars. The idea for it came from discussions held on the biweekly #geowebchat on Twitter."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Geoweb Links

The following links are worth looking at before a discussion about the geoweb, a complex topic that benefits from example in its elucidation: (Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute) (Alan McConchie's site) (Matt Wilson's site) (a housing map mashup)

(portions of this list were derived from the Mapping, Cyberspace entry of the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography)

Introduction to 3D data


I have just posted a message about this book, written by Heather Kennedy, and available on Amazon.

We will be using the book later on in labs and you can purchase it (well worth the investment) or use one of the 5 copies Bedford Library has ordered.

It requires very little previous GIS knowledge to master the exercises in this book.  I found it very enjoyable working through clear and logical steps with plenty of diagrams.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Critical GIS and the Geoweb 1: GISystems, GIScience and the Schuurman text

The first lecture of the year for GG3090, Critical GIS and the Geoweb, at Royal Holloway was quite a pleasure to deliver.   We covered "GIS Tool or Science?" noting the three basic positions written about by Wright et al. (1997): tools, toolmaking and science.  A couple of basic metaphors were used to examine the 'business' of 'doing' GIS, those of the mechanic's shop and the overlay.  

The mechanic's shop envisions the new GIS user as an apprentice mechanic entering a tool-filled garage for the first time.  The new apprentice mechanic (GIS technician) will not, of course, attempt to learn all the tools in the shop at once.  Instead, he or she will be guided in the use of a select few of the most useful and fundamental.  In GIS we learn first how to stack and symbolise layers, how to run simple buffers or do basic spatial analysis.  We learn how to make simple and effective maps.

The overlay metaphor is part of the founding myth of GIS, in which an architect seeking an ideal route through several diverse sites, attribute fields and land uses, stacks translucent map overlays on top of each other and maps (draws) a route through areas in which several basic criteria are met.  This metaphor/myth is borrowed from Nadine Schuurman's GIS book.  During lecture I had recommended this book as one of the best, if not the best, on critical GIS.  Having been published in 2004, however, it doesn't cover the geoweb material as well and, in the end, this is why it did not become required reading.

Schuurman's book is well worth checking out, and Bedford Library has two copies.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Breaking Culture Shock 2: Jetlagged in Staines

I was 17 hours in transit getting home.  To get a cheap ticket in October, I was forced to accept being routed through Chicago last Saturday.  So, the day went like this: 8 am dropped off at Montreal airport; 10 am, fly to Chicago arriving around 12 pm; wait for 4 hours in Chicago (I had originally been booked to leave Montreal at 11 leaving less of a layover but this was changed by the travel company); leave Chicago between 4 and 5 pm; arrival at Heathrow at 5:30 am, well before the 441 bus starts running to Egham, so instead I catch the 285 to Feltham.  In Feltham, last Sunday, the train was not running.  Another bus, and I was back in Egham and in my flat by 8 am!  That seems a bit long to me for what could be a simple six hour journey on a direct flight.

So now I was faced with a long day ahead of me and the strong urge to just sleep for a few hours.  To fight this urge I decided to walk to Staines.  I had not been there before but had always gone past in the train.  Being a new resident of this area I decided (actually my jetlag decided) that now was the time.  In my mind Staines lies somewhere in a hierarchy between Hounslow and Richmond, looking strictly at the high streets. 

The 'high street' in and of itself is a very British thing, although North Americans have the same thing.  It's usually called 'Market' or 'Main' street or something like that.  It's nice to have a place to walk around where there are no cars.  

I called my little excursion a 'psychogeography' though it was more 'psycho' and less 'geography.'  It did kill 4 hours and I tried to make a mental survey of the landscape as much as possible on a low battery.  I hit the back way home past the turn off to Virginia Water, got home and immediately jumped on my bicycle to keep the momentum going.  That was when I discovered the 'back way' to RHUL campus, by which you can get here entirely through farmers fields and forests.