Posts Tagged ‘digital earths’

GCI: Quality over quantity

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Yang et al. (2010) have helped clarify the complexity of Geospatial Cybernetic Infrastructure (GCI). However, the field covers so much ground that, at times, I found it difficult to grasp. The definition and scope of GCI is very, very ambitious: to utilize data resources, network protocols, computing platforms, and services that create communities. These communities comprise of people, information, and technological tools, which are then brought together to “perform science or other data-rich applications in this information-driven world” (264). Furthermore, the objectives are vast, where responsibility is placed on many variables: social heterogeneity, data analysis, semantic web, geospatial middleware, citizen-based sciences, geospatial cloud computing, collaboration initiatives. With so much going on simultaneously, it should not come as a surprise that organization is one of the main challenges in GCI. Perhaps covering less ground may lead to higher quality progress.

Despite the many obstacles that GCI must overcome, the advancement of Location-Based Services (LBS) (especially mobile technology) and digital earths have shown the potential for GCI. They are largely ubiquitous due to their user-friendly interfaces. Along with such developments, the attractive end-user interface component is significant. However, should primarily be informative, not just pretty. “The geospatial Semantic Web is a vision in which locations and LBS are fully understood by machines” (268). I believe this vision should be extended to humans also understanding (as close to “fully” as possible) the meaning of the geospatial Semantic Web.

Qwiki is a platform that represents both the semantic web and information processing. A combination of intelligent agent (primary) and human participation (secondary), it is a dynamic, visually emphasized version of Wikipedia. Here we have a conglomeration of different areas, supporting the multi-disciplinary aspect that GCI aims in representing and also the challenge of “how to best present data and information from multiple resources” (268). Qwiki has the potential to help organize enormous amounts of geospatial data from different domains, resources, applications, and cultural backgrounds. That is, if the data becomes digitized. Even though I advocate for quality, I believe quantity in terms of data organization is key as it is the first step towards knowledge building: data to information to knowledge. Organized data, in turn, prepares for advances in other areas of GCI to meet the proposed objectives.

-henry miller

So many challenges, so many opportunities

Friday, February 10th, 2012

MacEachren and Kraak address the notion of visualizing the world and what this exactly entails. The article was written over a decade ago and is still as relevant today as it was then, and centuries ago. “…80 percent of all digital data generated today include geospatial referencing” (1). A powerful sentence that altered my perspective on geographic visualization (geoviz), when I first read this article a few years ago. There is so much to explore, to reveal; the sky is the limit.  Geoviz is about transformations and dichotomies; the unknown versus known, public versus private, and high versus low-map interaction (MacEachren, 1994). It aims to determine how data can be translated into information that can further be transformed into knowledge. MacEachren and Kraak provide a critical perspective into the world of geoviz and its vexing problems. They do a good job in convincing us that a map is more than a map. Maps have evolved by means that “maps [are] no longer conceived of a simply graphic representations of geographic space, but as dynamic portals to interconnected, distributed, geospatial data resources” (3). “Maps and graphics…do more than ‘make data visible’, they are active instruments in the users’ thinking process” (3).

Out of the many challenges that we still face (also by Elwood) there are some that have been tackled successfully. The one I will focus on is ‘interfaces’ in relation to digital earths. Arguably, I believe that no one would have imagined the progress made with digital earths, especially Google Earth (GE) back in 2001. GE remains untouchable in its user-friendly display, mash-ups are through the help of Volunteered Geographic Information(VGI), including programmers who are contributing free software, interoperable with GE (GE Graph, Sgrillo). However, the abstract versus realism issue is relevant as ever. The quality and accuracy of the data may be low yet the information visualized will look pristine, and vibrant, thus deceive the user to believe otherwise. How do we then address levels of accuracy? Abstraction? Realism? Thus, we have challenges but we also have progress. MacEachren and Kraak’s article refocuses our attention on the pertinent obstacles that we should be mindful when exploring, discovering, creating or communicating geoviz. To move away from the “one tool fits all mentality” (8). To unleash the creativity from within.

MacEachren’s simple yet powerful geovisualization cube.


-henry miller