Posts Tagged ‘volunteered geographic information’

Walking on Water? Revisiting Reflections on Resolution and Scale

May 17, 2015 2 comments

A few years ago, I walked on the pier at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and after mapping my route, reflected on issues of resolution and scale in this blog.  After recording my track on my smartphone in an application called RunKeeper, it appeared on the map as though I had been walking on the water!  This, of course, was because the basemap did not show the pier or the fill adjacent to the marina.  Recently, following the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers, I had the opportunity to retrace my steps and revisit my field site.  What has changed in the past 2 1/2 years?  Much.

As shown below, the basemap used by RunKeeper  has vastly improved in that short amount of time.  The pier and fill is now on the map, and note the other differences between the new map and the one from 2012 below that appears below it–schools, trails, contour lines, and other features are now available.  A 3-D profile is available now as well. Why?  The continued improvement of maps and geospatial data from local, regional, federal, and international government agencies plays a role.  We have a plethora of data sources to choose from, as is evident in our recent post about Dr Karen Payne’s list of geospatial data and the development of Esri’s Living Atlas of the World.  The variety and resolution of base maps in ArcGIS Online and in other platforms continues to expand and improve at an rapid pace.

Equally significant, and some might argue more significant, is the role that crowdsourcing is having on the improvement of maps and services (such as traffic and weather feeds). In fact, even in this example, note the “improve this map” text that appears in the lower right of the map, allowing everyday fitness app users the ability to submit changes that will be reviewed and added to RunKeeper’s basemap. What does all of this mean for the the data user and GIS analyst? Maps are improving at a dizzying pace due to efforts by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, academia, private companies, and the ordinary citizen.  Yet, scale and resolution still matter.  Critically thinking about data and where it comes from still matters.  Fieldwork that uses ordinary apps can serve as an effective instructional technique.  It is indeed an exciting time to be in the field of geotechnologies.

Walking on Water?  Reflections on Resolution and Scale, Part 2

Walking on Water? Reflections on Resolution and Scale, Part 2. My walk on the north pier at Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

The map from 2012 is below.

Map from 2012 of my same route on the pier.

Map from 2012 of my same route on the pier. Crowdsourcing to improve global land cover data

March 17, 2013 Leave a comment

In our book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Datawe spend quite a bit of time discussing crowdsourcing, and rightly so:  Over the past few years, crowdsourcing has become a viable way not only to collect data, but also to verify and update existing data.  Reasons include budget constraints in those agencies that provide data and the subsequent need for field verification, a growing recognition that decisions based on spatial data are only as beneficial as the accuracy of the data sets themselves, the rapid expansion of citizen science, and growth in the number and variety of mobile and web-GIS tools that enable citizen scientists to contribute to the global community.

Examples of verifying and updating existing data are numerous, and a noteworthy one is from a group of researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria who lead an effort to improve global land cover/land use data.   This effort,, verifies three land cover data sets, including GlobCover from the ESA, MODIS from NASA, and GLC 2000 from the IES Global Environment Monitoring Unit, through knowledge and photographs from people local to specific areas. stie site.

Besides an improvement of the data and, it is hoped, in the decisions based on those data, some of these efforts feature innovative projects that provide benefit to local people.  For example, Geo-Wiki users were asked to identify the presence of cultivated land and settlements in samples in Ethiopia in a “hackathon” associated with USAID in an effort to improve local food security.

More information can be found on the Geo-Wiki site and in an article describing the project.