Posts Tagged ‘elwood’

Geovisualization and GIScience

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Sarah Elwood’s discussion, of the emerging questions in geovisualization and the linkages to GIScience research, does highlight the issues of qualitative and quantitative data overload and the dissemination of the data. However, I believe that the dynamic change and addition to data, be it quantitative or qualitative, is needed in both a standard and non-standard form. Thought my own research I have found that dynamic data in a non standard form often tells more about a situation then the standardized data. That said, standardized data is still needed in order to “create order” in our understanding and transmission of data to other people.

The article makes me think how as humans, we want everything in order so to make sense of what we see and how GIScience strives to create order in data for it to be useful. Nevertheless, is the universe not chaotic and basis of all data fundamentally chaotic? Maybe chaos and the none standard data tells us something more important about how we are as a people and how the tools and the ways we look at the world change from person to person and culture to culture. The heterogeneity of the data and the types of software and hardware we use maybe is the norm, and GIScience is trying to place artificial boundaries on how we see data and use tools.

Besides trying to fit data to standardized forms, the idea of “public” and “expert” technologies just does not make sense. Today technologies are so integrated in how youth (0-30 years old) see the world that technologies should not be classified as “expert” or “public” but the person who manipulates the technology. Growing up during the advent of mass produced home computers and driving the development for better processing power and performance, past what our parents had ever imagined, through the purchased of video games and internet use, has shown me it is the person not the machine. I have learned that often one must use a plentitude of  platform resources to achieve a result, as each type of platform like google earth or ARCgis has its strengths (one cannot create a single platform to satisfy all needs or wants).




Marginalized communities and qualitative data

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Throughout reading Elwood’s article, marginalized communities came to mind, mostly because of the certain level of rigidity in her review of emerging geoviz technologies. I found it particularly interesting of the comparison that was made between ‘public’ and ‘expert’ technologies, where the status-quo of GIS comprises of the ‘expert’ (standardization of data) realm is threatened by the ‘public’ (wiki, geo-tagging, Web 2.0, VGI) realm. I agree with Andrew “GIS” Funa’s point on standardization. What is our inherent need to do this with all of our data? And what happens when standardization cannot be applied? More specifically, how relevant is an expert technology to marginalized communities if no one is willing to apply that technology?

There is a mention of ‘excitement’ and high hopes, which authors have for new geoviz technologies to represent urban environments; however the article does not expand any further. The article does, however, note the term ‘naive geography’ and its “qualitative forms of spatial reasoning” (259). Presuming one can safely state that representing marginalized populations is a qualitative problem, ‘expert’ technologies tend to not focus on these issues. According to Elwood, qualitative problems are more difficult than quantitative problems, “where exact measurements or consistent mathematical techniques are more easily handled” (259). So what do we do about unstructured, shifting, context-dependent human thought? So should we not try to digitally represent these data because it may be too difficult to decipher? To draw linkages and discover patterns? Will qualitative data always be at a loss because it will not fit an exact algorithm? I think we should take the spark of hope that MacEachren and Kraak gave us and strive beyond some of the limitations outlined by Elwood.

-henry miller

What About Privacy in Data?

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Sarah Elwood posits that rapid change took hold of geospatial technologies over the last five years, with the “emergence of a wide array of new technologies that enable an ever-expanding range of individuals and social groups to create and disseminate maps and spatial data” (256). Elwood does an admirable job of fielding some of the pros and cons that stem from this revolution in technology. In particular, she covers changing power relationships as new groups are empowered by creating data, the possible limitations of existing spatial data models and analytical operations, and how problems with the heterogeneity of the data might make it difficult to support across users or platforms (interoperability).

However, her most important alarm bell, I believe, comes when she writes “that the growing ubiquity of geo-enabled devices and the ‘crowd sourcing’ of spatial information supported by Google Maps fuels exponential growth in digital data, and growing availability of data about everyday phenomena that have never been available digitally, nor from so many peoples and places” (257). What happens when governments use this data to spy on citizens or when individuals use this data for the wrong purposes? The United States government clearly has no compunction about monitoring its own citizens (if you follow recent politics there). Elwood, herself, pays short shrift to what this might mean for the privacy of users and, even, just the public caught up in “everyday phenomena.” She notes that some scholars have raised the question of whether or not the rise of these technologies constitute new forms of “surveillance, exclusion and erosion of privacy” (257) but quickly moves on to the exciting promise of these technologies.

In particular, Elwood appears enamored of the potential of these technologies to reveal new social and political truths (261). Yet, as we noted in our IPhone conversation in class, these technologies might be used inappropriately to track us without our knowledge. Individuals in a democratic society have an undeniable right to privacy, but how can they use these new technologies and software and still be sure that their privacy is respected and their data remains anonymous (if needed)? Should some type of system or regulations be put in place to ensure this right? Something like this has been tried in Europe, but what are the lessons? I’m not sure.