Thursday, November 10, 2011

Geography Awareness Week & GIS Day

Yes, it's that time of the year again and we have an exciting series of events at OSU for GAW this year! We will be presenting some of our game ideas to the larger OSU community during the Geography & GIS Fair on Nov. 15, 11am-1pm in the Ohio Union. Same afternoon there's an open house at BRPC, really cool (I know, bad joke)! We also have a playful Geography Treasure Hunt where anyone can join in a real-world treasure hunting game using GPS to locate clues hidden around campus. Teams of 3-4 participants race through campus to find all the caches on their route. The fastest team wins the grand prize! Finally the event is capped by the presentation "Through the Macroscope: Geography’s View of the World" delivered by AGS President, Dr. Jerome Dobson. I am particularly looking forward to this presentation since the title reminds me of Katy Börner's excellent (admittedly a bit technical) overview of emerging tools to understand the "infinitely complex". GIS, simulation environments (yes, games too!), mining of massively crowd-sourced data are all examples of such tools. In Katy's words: "Rather than make things larger [like a microscope] or smaller [like a telescope], macroscopes let us observe what is at once too great, slow, or complex for the human eye and mind to notice and comprehend."
A related essay by Neil Savage illustrate the growing possibilities for social scientist to tap into massive data sets on human individual behavior, decisions, etc. Twitter is by no means the perfect source for this type of data but it is one of the first to emerge in what can be expected to become a flood of auto-generated, spatially coded, and personally tagged information. Understanding these data flows is critical to its proper use and also for developing alternative, even better data streams. Visual analytics provide one macroscope onto these data flows and can provide stunningly complex and still comprehensive perspectives of seemingly chaotic data.

The Truthy tool shows a graphical representation of how a Tweet propagates, with retweets in blue and topic mentions in orange. Tweets that are sent back and forth between two Twitter accounts appear as a thick blue bar. Source: Savage, 2011, Credit:

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