Posts Tagged ‘geolibraries’

Footprints and priorities

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Goodchild’s (1998) ‘Geolibrary’ chapter is a great introduction to the geolibrary field and the challenges it poses. However, it should be noted that it was published 14 years ago, which may mean that some of the questions raised have already been answered, while others still remain problematic, and further, new questions are anticipated. In particular, geographical footprints have become more complex in search queries. “But the current generation of search engines, exemplified by Alta Vista or Yahoo, are limited to the detection and indexing of key words in text. By offering a new paradigm for search, based on geographic location, the geolibrary might provide a powerful new way of retrieving information” (2). Now that we have Google as the most used search engine, I agree with Jeremy regarding his reference to Google Maps and searches related to businesses. I believe it is a type of geolibrary, although the economic and legal issues that Goodchild poses come to mind (8). As Google as a business the payment for its maintenance and the legal rights it holds become convoluted and at times questionable to the users. Would open-source map applications such as OpenStreetMap be more appropriate to manage financial and legal issues with fewer controversies?

Geolibrary footprints continue to be interesting due to its ability to enhance or hinder the amount of sources a user is exposed to. The more in the vicinity a user is to the specific location they are researching and want to extensively explore the database of a particular geolibrary, the more information that individual will find. This can be problematic for remote researchers that are constrained to a geographical location, and at a great distance from their research study area. This can have serious implications on the research conducted as the way the research unfolds drastically alter based on the amount of sources available. In a sense, it is stifling the global aspect of geolibraries as a plethora of sources about a location is still only available in the proximity of the location in question. As the questions a geolibrary can answer revolve around area, geographical footprints can play a significant role to diminish uneven distribution of place related information in a digital form.

-henry miller


Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Imagine the first decade of the 2000s, the Internet well-established, and the endless possibilities beginning to emerge in full.  The possibilities for data sharing are immense.  And then, on January 15th, 2001, it manifested in what is today recognized as an extraordinary project: Wikipedia.  Today we know Wikipedia as an oft-reliable source, and while further references are always ideal, it is the perfect starting point for mining the internet of the immense amounts of data it has, as well as exploiting the research already done by many others in the global commons.

This is what came to mind when reading Goodchild’s introduction to Geolibraries.  While I first thought of Google Earth, and the basemap it provides upon which to place georeferenced data, the further I read into his overview, the more I thought of Wikipedia, and how this platform seems to be a perfect way to bring the idea of geolibraries to reality.  To further elucidate, I will go through a couple of Goodchild’s main questions at the end of his article.

First, he asks about intellectual property rights.  Obviously, geolibraries will contain information that is more than just “fact” (in as much as things on Wikipedia are fact), such as musical pieces, building plans, etc that may not in fact be property of the global common.  Perhaps copyright as is applied on other internet sharing sites such as Flickr could be a good start–is something a part of the global commons, is it licensed for creative use, or is it 100% copyrighted?

Goodchild also asks about the “infrastructure” of a geolibrary, as well as the economic feasibility.  This too could be modelled from Wikipedia–a veritable container of a plethora of information, pictures, sound clips, and more.  Wikipedia is founded by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-for-profit charitable organization–perhaps this is the route geolibraries must take: an endeavour to be undertaken by those passionate about Georeferenced information?

Finally, I would like to address the question of metadata.  Goodchild asks how much metadata we need, how it should be catalogued, and elsewhere in the article, he speaks briefly again to a users own cognition.  I believe with a “Global Commons” type of platform, like Wikipedia, there will be a lot of metadata, that can be edited continuously by multiple people and perspectives with the hopes of finding a neutral ground.

Obviously there are a lot of ways Wikipedia isn’t directly amenable to becoming a Geolibrary, but this is, in my opinion, an interesting model to start from–going from paper encyclopedias in physical libraries to online catalogues of information.


Blickr: Flickr for books!

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Goodchild touches on a few interesting thoughts in the second article. I feel however, that this article is outdated. He refers to being able to access information across a network as something almost magical. He says something along the lines of a georeferenced library will have the ability to serve people across the globe using digital copies! On a similar note Goodchild also mentions the idea of not needing to duplicate material—an idea that we seem to be unable to escape from in each of our lectures.

Something that I found quite relevant however, is the sorting and cataloguing of photographs . The geolibrary offers a much more concrete system of organization. I really love this idea. Prior to the concept of a geolibrary I can only assume that if photographs were not assembled in a portfolio, compilation with a specific topic or in published book, it might be hard to find photos. Even within a publication, it seems like a tedious task to track down a photo that is most probably untitled and not georeferenced. I think that Flickr currently does a decent job at this task, but this database is limited to photographs only. As a user you can label your photos, add description and even add georeferenced data to help other users search for photos, as they might search for academic articles. The collection of photos, by user, visualized on a map is stimulating. Not quite as useful as I proposed in my other blog post, but still pretty cool.

I found this article somewhat repetitive, and perhaps unnecessary, but did address some fundamental reasons for and problems with geolibraries. I’m eager to see how the development of geolibraries evolves. It is perhaps, one of my more favourite concepts with respect to GIScience.


Geolibraries simplifying future academic research

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Goodchild suggests in Fuzzy Spatial Queries in Digital Spatial Data Libraries that the lat/long coordinate systems should only be used for areas that are lacking place names and named features. (Firstly I would argue that there are very few nomads academically publishing works from the Sahara), but more importantly, the issue of ontologies and standardization of labels arises once again. An article written in, let’s say Japan about Italy will have a completely different label than one in Canada, written about Italy. An English person would reference his or her work as a topic in Italy, while a Japanese academic would write that their subject also occurs in ????. If Goodchild is planning on writing a program, or interface, I will suggest that he use a coordinate system, and have his program group and aggregate the location of topics or footprints based on these coordinates. How does Goodchild plan to deal with international, multi-lingual academic publications?

Goodchild also poses the idea of searching by area. He suggests that we should be able to search by more than just topic and author; we should search by place as well. I think that the user should be able to search by region of interest (of the topic), region of origin, or both. If both origin and subject are georeferenced I see the possibility to create something more dynamic than this simple query .What if, in a Google Earth-like interface, we could also offer a visualized network (as we can visualize the flight-paths of commercial airplanes) of who the author has cited in a specific paper, and in another search criteria visualize what other articles have cited the article in return. Instead of rifling through Bibliographies and Works Cited pages, one (or two) simple click(s), could potentially visualizes all related articles on a map. Research simplified!


Gazetteer and the Design of Digital Geolibraries

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Goodchild has pointed out in his book the trend of digital geolibraries which utilize Internet and information services to emulate the services of conventional physical geolibraries. By this means, users are no longer constrained by the physical resource of conventional geolibraries. The term “gazetteer” describes functionalities that enable users to search an area with the place name, instead of pointing out the place on the base map. Generally, gazetteer contains location information about the place name, the dimension of geographic features of the location, population, environmental status, to name a few here. Users can visit geospatial information with the gazetteer, which serves as a type of meta-data.

In the section 5.6.3, Goodchild declares that the gazetteer is not likely to change rapidly, which I cannot agree here. For example, GeoWEB is coined as platform for geospatial information exchange, where information can be updated frequently. Therefore, the corresponding gazetteer should also be updated accordingly, since the outdated gazetteers can lead to failures in geospatial information indexing, searching and retrieving.

Digital geolibraries should provide functionalities to help user to access the gazetteer they need, or machine learning algorithms to fill the missing data in user’s input or searching criteria. Nowadays, the users of GIS are no longer research scientists or people with GIS expertise, so we should pay careful attention to the design of digital geolibraries. Sometimes, fuzzy reasoning should be applied in the design of gazetteers, which can present the geospatial information that are related to the user’s search at a reasonable scale. But how to define such a reasonable scale is a great challenge in the design of digital geolibraries.