This week the last of the 15/10 geo projects officially kicked off which means that, like last week’s Grand National we now have an awful lots of exciting runners and riders (though unlike the Grand National we expect all of them to look even more fantastic at the end of their projects than they do now!).
IGIBS is the acronym for the Interoperable Geographic Information for Biosphere Study. The project is looking at ways in which research data collected in and/or about the Dyfi Biosphere can be shared and made available to others through WMS – Web Mapping Services. The idea is that a researcher with data that she wants to share or compare to others’ work would be able to upload their data and create their own WMS specifically for their data.
The Dyfi Biosphere is a really interesting location for collecting use cases as there are researchers from multiple different disciplines and backgrounds working in the area at any time. They might be looking at water quality or at economic measures or at the uptake of the Welsh language. All of these researchers produce geographical information but it may not be interoperable or easily found or compared with others’ work.
Of course it is not just in Wales that data and data with a geographic component is becoming a big issue. At a ScraperWiki Hacks & Hackers Hackday I attended recently it was clear that the types of social and political data that is of interest to journalists has a subtle but important element of geography. Statistics on measures of deprivation are all the more informative when viewed on a map with other features in a landscape. Road accident statistics will vary significantly with the features of the landscape but comparing those statistics to other data (e.g. locations of pubs, pothole repair work budget by local authority) may provide – as it is hoped with many of the 15/10 projects even more interesting opportunities to analyze and interpret data.
Viewing data on a map also makes it somehow more personal as we are to always starting our experience of maps with out own area of the world and drilling down or looking out from there. Ask anyone to play with online mapping tools and, after a pause, their first move will be to look up their own address. Indeed Arcade Fire’s now very well known The Wilderness Downtown (an interactive video using Google Maps, video, animation and HTML5 magic to create personalized films) played entirely upon the strength of our psychological ties to our place on the map. Unsurprising then that it can be much easier to grasp data when we can relate data on our own area with data from other surrounding or more distant areas whether that is about using expert data – as in IGIBS or STEEV – or whether that is about beginning to add our own data about our surroundings as in NatureLocator.
And on that slightly random note I shall hand the blog back to James as I shall be engaging in my own geographical experiments by exploring Arran for my first ever trip there, map quite firmly in hand.