W J 24: The Geographic Analysis Process: Mitchell ch. 1 + Projects

January 27, 2014


Mitchell: The ESRI Guide to GIS Analysis, ch. 1

GIS technology 30 years old

Good for making maps: but can do more than that: GIS Analysis

  • maps (and GIS) don’t just show us what exists, the help us discover new things, help make decisions
  • maps result from GIS analysis: have important impact (visual)

Why GIS might not be used:

  • lack of data (changing rapidly, but still a problem)
  • difficult software (but now easy interfaces; still complex though)
  • lack of understanding about GIS analysis capabilities (the book)
  • where are things in geographic space?
  • mapping variations in amount: least and most
  • mapping density
  • finding what is inside
  • finding what is nearby
  • mapping change

What is GIS Analysis?

GIS Analysis as a process

  • simple visual analysis to complex digital modeling
  • akin to the research process

1. Frame the Question:

  • where are endangered ecosystems in Delaware County?
  • where are potential recreational trail corridors in Delaware County?
  • how can viable OWU food waste be efficiently distributed to area food banks?
  • where does the food sold on campus come from, and what are the consequences of our consumption of these foods?
  • what are the bird habitats on campus and how can they be enhanced?
  • how can Delaware Run be restored in a campus-community-private sector collaboration?
  • how can urban heat islands in central Ohio be assessed? Using what tools?
  • how can drones be used with other remotely sensed imagery to assess environments?
  • who is your audience?  what is your final goal?

2. Understand your Data

  • what is the context of your question?  who are the experts?  literature, people
  • what do you have to know about the context of the question to answer it?
  • best to do solid research first then start to ask/bother people: they are apt to be more helpful if you come to them knowing something
  • what is an endangered ecosystem?  what are specific examples?
  • what are the goals of recreational trails?  what do they connect?
  • how is food waste reuse assessed and how is it collected?
  • what or who can help you to understand the issue: literature, people

3. Choose a Method

  • what data is available to help answer your question?  source? cost? compatibility?
  • what data do you have to generate yourself? easy vs. difficult vs impossible
  • what specific data will you need for your project?

4. Process the Data: specific analysis

  • ex) generate endangered areas by comparing areas defined as important ecosystems to their closeness to recent development
  • ex) generate potential trails by generating important points and areas to connect; and determining feasible paths between those points; relate potential trails to property ownership and other factors
  • ex) generate a plan for distributing food waste from campus to area food banks
  • ex) analyze the global impact of specific food consumption on campus
  • what kind of GIS or other analysis will you need to understand for your project?

5. Look at the Results

  • generate a map (with a database) and use it to present results
  • ex) map of endangered ecosystems in Delaware Co: distribute to ??
  • ex) map of potential trails in Delaware Co.: planners, bike clubs, etc.
  • ex) a map that guides distribution of OWU food waste
  • ex) map of the global impact of what we eat
  • vital part of the process: communication and advocacy
  • Simple in concept; complex in application!

Understanding Geographic Features

  • we reduce the complexity of the real world in order to collect data and map it

A feature: “something inherent and distinctive”

Types of features (mappable data)

1. Discrete Features: at any location, the feature is there or is not there

  • point, line, and area example: p. 12
  • corresponds to vector data structure in most GIS programs

2. Continuous Features: feature is everywhere in varying amounts

  • ex) temperature
  • ex) elevation
  • ex) soil or bedrock (Delaware Data)

3) Features Summarized by Area: census or count data

  • define an area; count features in the area; assign total to the area
  • know how many features in an area, but not where they are in the area
    ex) US Census data, animal census

Remember what I said about repetition of some concepts from reading to reading… as a way to assess concepts that are more important…

Two Ways of Representing Geographic Features

1) Vector: points, lines, and areas

  • each point has a unique location in a coordinate system: latitude/longitude
  • points connect to make lines
  • series of points, connected to make lines, which close are areas

2) Raster: grid of varying resolution with cells

  • air photo, remotely sensed image, camera image (drone, thermal data)

Different data structures; can be related in GIS but generated differently and stored and processed differently.

Map Projections and Coordinate Systems

Review from Geog 222 or 353

  • coordinate systems: based on the idea of a graph
  • locations in geographic space: x, y
  • latitude longitude vs state plane coordinate system
  • coordinate layers of GIS information
  • map projection
  • 3D earth to 2D map
  • distortions inherent in process (shape, area)
  • distortions less evident at detailed scales
  • but GIS layers must have same map projection or will not align properly

Understanding Geographic Attributes

  • a geographic feature (point, line, area) has one or more attributes
  • ex) area is a vernal pool, it is 1 acre, it is on private property (3 attributes)

Types of attribute values

  • categories: qualitative
  • ex) vernal pool (area) vs river (line)

Ranks: quantitative with order

  • ex) water quality: high, medium, low

Counts and amounts: quantitative, total numbers

  • ex) 35 robins in one nature reserve, 67 in a second reserve

Ratios: relationship between two quantities

  • ex) people per household in census tracts in Delaware county

Data tables: the ‘database’ or spreadsheet where the feature attributes are found

  • ex) select all properties in Delaware County that are residential land use
  • ex) calculate and summarize the total value of all properties a proposed trail crosses

Course Project Ideas


Below the fold find additional material from previous course projects.

Read the rest of this entry »

M J 23: Geospatial Analysis text: Intro + Conceptual Frameworks

January 21, 2014

Technology shapes how we do things…stairs vs slides in buildings.

First: any additional introductions?

Geospatial Analysis – A Comprehensive Guide

Notes and examples on “Introduction & Terminology” and “Conceptual Frameworks for Spatial Analysis.”


Introduction & Terminology

1. On applications

2. GIS, Spatial Analysis, and Software

3. Terminology & Definitions

Conceptual Frameworks for Spatial Analysis

The Geospatial Perspective: “a distinct perspective on the world, a unique lens through which to examine events, patterns, and processes that operate on or near the surface of our planet.”

The domain of geospatial analysis is the surface of the Earth, extending upwards in the analysis of topography and the atmosphere, and downwards in the analysis of groundwater and geology. In scale it extends from the most local, when archaeologists record the locations of pieces of pottery to the nearest centimetre or property boundaries are surveyed to the nearest millimetre, to the global, in the analysis of sea surface temperatures or global warming. In time it extends backwards from the present into the analysis of historical population migrations, the discovery of patterns in archaeological sites, or the detailed mapping of the movement of continents, and into the future in attempts to predict the tracks of hurricanes, the melting of the Greenland ice-cap, or the likely growth of urban areas.

Geospatial Analysis: what happens where, and makes use of geographic information that links features and phenomena on the Earth’s surface to their locations.

1. Basic “Primitives”

  • place: complicated concept: Wikipedia
  • attributes: “any recorded characteristic or property of a place” + measurement levels (qualitative, quantitative) + examples in ArcGIS
  • objects: raster (images) & vector (points, lines, areas) below (from Making Maps):


justscale generalization

2. Spatial Relationships


  • spatial interpolation: filling in between known data


  • smoothing and sharpening (generalization; see above)

3. Spatial Statistics

4. Spatial Data Infrastructure


  • Interoperability: standards for spatial data (so everything works together): OGC

…All this jargon…



Next: Discuss and brainstorm ideas for course projects + working groups.

Assign: Mitchell ch. 1 (PDF) & refining ideas for the course project (including working groups, division of labor, etc.)

Mitchell Ch. 1 is useful as an overview of the GIS Analysis process. Akin to the research process in general. I will review this chapter for our next meeting.

Consider (and include in your blog posting for the reading):

  • How the course project you have an interest in can be approached and organized using the GIS Analysis / research process: a way of structuring your work on the project
  • How a project proposal (check schedule for due date) can be developed, including a plan and schedule for implementation, for your project. Work on this proposal will happen simultaneously with discussion of the readings and work on the software tutorial.
  • Identify and questions or issues you have, terminology, concepts, examples, etc.


W J 15: GIS & GIS Applications I: Schuurman ch 1

January 14, 2014


1. Readings

Schuurman ch. 1, “Geography Matters”

Introducing the Identities of GIS

The Success of GIS: is it now what Geography is?  Ubiquitous computing (example)

“This book is designed to inform the reader about precisely how GIS affects them as well as myriad social processes” (1)

  • a more human & social approach to technology, intellectual rather than only technological

The problem of GIS and geography: love/hate

  • GIS as one way of understanding “geography” – other approaches may be lost in the dust
  • quantitative vs. qualitative methods
  • epistemology: The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.  How we know.
  • ontology (what the world must be like in order to be known): in GIS, points, lines, areas… is that what the world is like? Or what it is like in order for us to understand it? What the world must be like to understand it with GIS?
  • Many approaches to the study of Geography (particularly in the cultural, social, human realm) are not that amenable to GIS.

The Identity of GIS: What Is It?

Delware County Ohio: DALIS Project: a tool for storing complex data; practical problem solving

  • what is where: data input, analysis, output

“PsychoGeography” maps / Mental Maps

  • a different what and where it is
  • weird stuff

Delaware Recreational Trails

  • what is most important when locating a recreational trail?
  • logic of quantitative methods for optimizing, or qualitative data used to anticipate how people will react (and why)?  Epistemological issues!
  • Delaware Trails research paper (PDF): more in a moment…

Where Does GIS Come From? Intellectual Antecedents

1930s) J.K. Wright: “The Terminology of Certain Map Symbols” (1944): point, line, area:  for map symbolization; basis of vector data

1960s) McHarg and the GIS “overlay” method: locating a road: pre-computer era

  • encode in a computer: technology and a particular way of knowing
  • what is not taken into account in this approach
  • spatial analysis: a means of extracting information (knowledge) from data
  • let a computer do what McHarg did
  • maps allow us to see raw data, or interact with data as we are analyzing it, or show the results of what we did
  • 1950s-60s: development of computational analysis and spatial analysis tools
  • wed technology to methods of knowing

What does GIS stand for?

  • definitions describe technology (systems; application): GIS(ystems) = GIS
    • hard/software for data input, analysis, output
    • “black box:” assume the methods in the software are legitimate, don’t question or think about what is going on in the box
  • definitions describing methods and process (science; theory): GIS(cience) = GISci
    • origin of the methods, critique of the methods, new methods
    • conceptual models of geographic space, sphericity of the real world vs. flat world of GIS
    • uncertainty and error, analytical methodologies, cognitive aspects.
    • also Participatory GIS, Critical Cartography & GIS: myriad of human/social issues
    • justifying and shaping an intellectual/academic role in GIS
  • myriad of issues of intellectual importance (that one may not think about at all if only approaching GIS as black box technology).
  • Understanding the World
    • quantitative vs. qualitative methods
    • epistemology: The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.  How we know.
    • ontology (what the world must be like in order to be known): in GIS, points, lines, areas… is that what the world is like? Or what it is like in order for us to understand it? What the world must be like to understand it with GIS?
    • Many approaches to the study of the world (and Geography) (particularly in the cultural, social, human realm) don’t seem amenable to study by GIS.
      • ex) certain kinds of data easier to collect and analyze and map, they seem more intuitive maybe because they are what we are used to doing.
      • ex) Historians reluctance to use GIS: Historical GIS
  • Maps (as part of GIS) complicate things even more: example) species range maps (what is a range? a species?)

Are maps propositions?

  • does geography (and its concepts/theories) drive GIS, or does GIS drive geography?  Debates in the field.

Data in, Information Out: Common Ground between GISys and GISci

GISys and GISci hard to differentiate in practice

  • ex) data classification: the categories we put things into
  • ex) house: what defines what a house is?  Is an apartment a house?  A dorm?  A condo?  A long-term residential hotel?  The kind of issue both Sys and Sci people have to deal with
  • ex) boundaries: complexity in drawing: neighborhood boundaries have to be drawn if you are using GIS, but where to draw them?  How do you define a neighborhood (which is a classification of place)
  • visualization: using intuition and knowledge to see patterns and connections:
    different epistemological approach – visual, not analytical.
  • Dr Snow example: Broad St. pump and cholera p. 15

Geography Matters

2. Your Introductions & Interesting GIS application (w/examples)

3. Next Time

  • see course schedule
  • after class: blog clean-up and questions

Geography 355 GIS Blog Updated for Spring 2014!

January 6, 2014


M J 13: Introduction to Course, Course Projects, and Course Blogs

January 6, 2014

Deer with basketball stuck in antlers

Geography 355: a follow up to Geography 222 & 353

  • But no prereq!  Why?  Problems with this! Or not!
  • Best to take 222 then 353 then 355 – but any combination OK
Geographic Information Systems (GIS): technology & methods for analyzing spatial / geographic data (data with a geographic location associated with it).

Different ways to teach a geographic information systems (GIS) course like this one:

  • Lectures + series of exercises (Geog 222)
  • Lectures + one big exercise broken into parts (Geog 353)

Or get away from those formats: even more open, flexible, interactive: this class:

  • Student presentations of readings (w/some by me)
  • Self guided tutorial (w/my & classmates help)
  • Applied, real-world group project or projects (practicum, service learning, etc.)

Exhibit A: GIS Texts for course (Schuurman, Mitchell, Getting to Know ArcGIS 10) and software (ArcGIS)

  • GIS: set of concepts and hardware and software
  • Data input, analysis, output
  • Capabilities and applications expanding exponentially
  • Data Input (how?)
  • Data Layers (examples)
  • Data analysis (examples)
  • Data output (printer, webmaps, etc.)
  • ex) Delaware GIS Data in ArcGIS
  • all in a social/human context (Schuurman book)

Course goal: become familiar (or more familiar) with GIS concepts, functionality, software

Exhibit B: class student projects

GIS is so popular because it is useful: many applications, but GIS applications are a lot of work!

  • Data input: where is data from?  format?  what data do you need?
  • typical: 50% to 75% of time and cost is in finding and processing data in any GIS project
  • Output: on computer screen?  paper?  WWW?  To what audience?

The complexities of an actual application

  • Understand the software, your data and the application area, the research process, goals.
  • The human context: working in a group (collaboration: group member’s varying abilities and skills), project politics, costs involved, institutions within which GIS is supposed to function

Course Goal: Learn that GIS is a bunch of software functions in ArcGIS and much more than a bunch of software functions in ArcGIS

The goal this semester is to bring together exhibits A and B

  • Learn about GIS as a software tool: its functions, capabilities
  • Apply what we learn to a real world project
  • In working through a real world application we will learn what GIS is really about much more than just software and hardware

Geography 353: Scripted project, all figured out for you, me active, you more passive

  • Useful for learning…but…

This course: a bit more active learning for all of us

  • We will work as a group (or in sub groups) throughout the semester
  • You will be active in shaping what we do and how we do it
  • The success of the course depends on your engagement in the course
  • You will push yourself and me to get the most you can get out of this course

Problems: anxiety provoking, potential for disorder and problems, unmotivated & passive students

Benefits: learn a lot in “real world” setting with real problems to solve, forced to move beyond passive lump in class, maybe even have an impact

OWU students: smart, motivated, engaged; and small class sizes

  • Upper level courses should involve real engagement (so that is what I expect)

Bottom Line: for this course to work:

  • Active participation by all students: lumpen passivity not allowed
  • Collaboration with each other and OWU and community folks
  • Students should expect to play an active and vital role in the class and in the project!

Review: Syllabus and Schedule and General Course Structure (blog)

Create your Course Blog

1) go to wordpress.com

2) sign up and create a blog

3) set up the look of the blog and create some categories

  • Class Readings
  • Class Project
  • Class Exercises
  • Evaluations
  • Personal

4) new post: introduction to you

5) new post: Schurmann reading (ch. 1) notes, comments, questions

6) new post: One GIS application area of interest, with at least 3-5 sources/links & embedded graphics

7) email me the URL to your Blog by the end of class today and have the other stuff done by class time Wednesday.