Home > Public Domain Data > Teaching Location Privacy and Resolution with a Big Pixel Image

Teaching Location Privacy and Resolution with a Big Pixel Image

Ever since those ultra-high-resolution “gigapan” images began appearing from Microsoft and other sources a decade ago, I have been fascinated by them for their use in education.  Today, I frequently use the following image taken off of the Oriental Pearl Tower in China (at 468m, the tallest tower in China from 1994-2007):   http://sh-meet.bigpixel.cn/?from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0     This image, compiled from billions of pixels, is amazing in its resolution.  A video on how I teach with it is here. 

pixel1

Big pixel image from Oriental Pearl Tower in China–initial view.

I have, for example, included this image in a university cartography and geo-visualization course that I teach online.  I first ask the students to examine the cultural geography, assessing the land use, zoning, traffic, and other aspects.  Then, I ask them to examine the physical geography–the terrain, the vegetation, the river winding through the city, and so on.

Third, I ask them to consider the resolution, reflecting on what we have discussed thus far in the course.  I ask them: Can you see inside office buildings and residential windows? Can you read license plates on cars?  Can you determine what pedestrians look like?  I ask them to think about:  Do your answers and the resolution of this image bring up any ethical concerns?

pixel2

Big pixel image from the Oriental Pearl Tower in China–detailed view. 

Fourth, I ask them to consider another topic we have discussed:  The Internet of Things and our connected world.  Where does information come from?  Increasingly, it is from webcams, sensors, and humans.  We have a chat about face recognition software and how none of the faces in this image (as of this writing) are blurred.  What are the implications for blurring and not blurring?  Finally, I ask them to take a random sample of 10 people in the gigapixel image.  How many people are holding a tablet or smartphone?  What implications does this have on information, and for society?

–Joseph Kerski

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