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.

Spring 2012 Finalizing Projects

April 15, 2012

On Monday April 16 groups will present a brief overview of progress on the course projects. For each project, please prepare a project report that documents and illustrates your project. The reports need not be lengthy, but instead concise. These reports will be read by other faculty, and students interested in continuing the projects in future semesters.

Below find a series of project reports from previous courses and independent studies. Your project should be documented in a similar manner, and submitted as a Word document (so I can edit if need be).

Wed. Feb. 22: Ongoing Class Work

February 22, 2012


Some things to do:

  • Sign up for the Sustainability at OWU Facebook Page. There is lots of sustainability stuff going on on campus, and this page is one excellent way to keep on top of it. Also, watch for ideas and projects related to what you are doing for your project in class. So sign up as an easy class assignment!
  • Keep working on your course project. Please prepare a project overview formatted like the one here, for a project in the Spring 2011 course. Do this by Wednesday, February 29.
  • Keep working on the ArcGIS Tutorial. You should be through the tutorial by the end of this week (Friday February 24).
  • Complete the Delaware Data Inventory as soon as possible, but no later than next Wednesday (February 29). You need to complete this before doing the 2nd part of the take home mid term exam.
  • Get going on the Take Home Mid Term Exam. The first part is relatively easy, the second part can be a bit of a bear. Don’t put it off!


I am away tomorrow (Thursday February 23) through next tuesday (February 28th) at a conference. Email me if anything comes up.


Class Project: Sustainability Region / Green Action Trail

January 31, 2012

Digital print; assemblage of historic museum labels. Made by Rebecca Jewell while Artist in Residence on the Melanesia Project at the British Museum, 2006. (via British Museum)


As indicated the first day of class, the course project in Geography 355 will be coming into focus as we brainstorm ideas in the context of previous work on the Delaware and Campus green maps, the sustainability region idea, and the green trail idea. Below are basic components of the project, as well as the results of student interests expressed in class, and our meeting with Sustainability Coordinator Sean Kinghorn.

After that, find a section (“Project: Sustainability Region & Green Action Trail”) where I try and pull together a plan for the project this semester. Hopefully students can find some aspect of this project that fits their interests and abilities. We will discuss Wednesday in class, after the reading presentations.


Course Project

General Context: Sustainable Region | Green Mapping OWU | Delaware (map & map)

Green Trail + Habitats + sites (brochure map and map back and proposal)

Sustainability Region Initial Draft Proposal (PDF)


Sustainability Region & Green Action Trail: Revised Draft for NSF Grant

We propose a sustainability region, encompassing Ohio Wesleyan University and Delaware Ohio, arrayed with a system of research “action” locations linked by a pedagogical green action trail. Our project seeks to enhance the understanding of science by non-science Environmental Studies majors, to enhance the understanding of social factors by science Environmental Studies majors, to ensure substantive theory-into-practice research experiences for all Environmental Studies majors, and to contribute to the sustainability of the OWU campus and the city of Delaware.

I. The Idea of a Sustainability Region

  • Sustainability
  • Campus and City Sustainability
  • The Regional Concept of Sustainability
  • Anthropogenic Biomes, Urban Ecosystems, Political Ecology
  • City of Delaware, Ohio & Ohio Wesleyan University Sustainability Region
  • geography & ecology of the sustainability region
  • partners & progress on sustainability
  • motivations

II. Pedagogical Issues: Undergraduate Education

  • STEM
  • Interdisciplinary Environmental Programs

III. Interdisciplinary Environmental Programs & Sustainability

  • Environmental Studies at Ohio Wesleyan
  • history & goals of program
  • need for engaged, research or practical experience as part of major
  • ties to curricular initiatives: theory-into-practice
  • natural science + environmental studies majors: understand the importance of the social / human context of science in practice
  • social science / humanities / arts + environmental studies majors: understand the importance of natural science in practice
  • Enhancing ES Major with sustainability in practice
  • joint sustainability and student research coordinator
  • collaborate with faculty to provide all Environmental Studies students with a 1-2 semester sustainability project in the sustainability region. Project budgets and stipends.
  • projects contribute to regional sustainability and include
  • real data collection and analysis
  • implementation of action plan for sustainability
  • engagement in environmental practice, with faculty and environmental professionals

IV. Green Action Locations

  • locations of data collection and monitoring within region: focus of student engagement
  • linked to sustainability issues, faculty, campus, and city interest
  • equipment: remote sensors, field monitors, app data collection, etc. Low to high tech.
  • long term monitoring and assessment of sustainability practice impacts
  • data funneled through a database / web server (Ohio Link? OWU Libraries/Info Services)

V. Green Action Trail

  • marked trail linking green action locations
  • tours, K-12 education, exercise, “destination science”


Project: Sustainability Region & Green Action Trail

Given the in-class ideas and brainstorming, I propose that we proceed on the course project through the steps outlined below. In essence, we are building upon the existing Green Trail project and feeding into the Sustainability Region research proposal. Ultimately, I envision a network of locations for monitoring and ongoing student/faculty research as well as class activities, connected by marked trails that will allow OWU to highlight it’s commitment to sustainability, the environment, student research, engagement, and action.

Consider the campus/Delaware area as a sustainability region: what kinds of habitats (ecological and human) are there and what are their characteristics? What kind of data do we have now, related to sustainability and the environment? What are the range of “action” locations throughout the sustainability region? How are they or can they be monitored? How to connect these locations to existing trails and provide access to them? How do we provide access to the information?

(1) and (4) below will take a person or two each, possibly with some skills for carrying out the tasks (in consultation with Krygier and other faculty/staff)

(2) and (3) below can be divided up among the rest of the people in the class. I grouped the “action” locations into categories, possibly corresponding to student interest areas (social/human, science, environmental, etc.)

(5) and (6) are issues Krygier will work on.

With the issues in 1, 2, and 3 below in mind, read this article on anthropogenic biomes, which, in essence, incorporates humans in ecological studies. This is an important intellectual component of our “sustainability region.” Please blog your notes on the reading, as well as how the reading can help us to develop and refine the class project. You can also google the term (anthropogenic biomes) and see if you can find other projects or ideas that will help to shape our project. Please be as particular as possible, in your blog posting, in modifying or adding to the issues outlined below in 1, 2, and 3.

1. Sustainability Region Habitats: Revise map of habitat types:

  • expand to entire city of Delaware (or most of it)
  • evaluate existing habitats and modify if necessary
  • develop a series of urban habitats (instead of just “gray spaces”)
  • classifying humans (what categories? habitats)
  • consult with OWU faculty (ecology, geography, etc.)
  • Julian Kusin, John Reierson (+ Krygier)

2. Sustainability & Environmental Data: Gather existing data related to environment and sustainability

  • real-time data
  • non-real-time data
  • potential data collection/monitoring
  • monitors which allow pre/post evaluation of sustainability efforts
  • monitors which allow competitive sustainability contests (eg., two dorms compete to cut down on energy usage)
  • range of human and environmental activities
  • consult with Sean Kinghorn
  • consult with city of Delaware
  • consult with OWU faculty
  • consult with Delaware environmental people (Sustainable Delaware)

3. Revise map “action” locations

  • monitoring or data collection locations
  • research sites
  • important environmental phenomena
  • exemplars of different habitat types
  • urban and natural areas
  • ongoing projects and potential projects
  • Action locations tied to Delaware Schools, kids
  • humans, animals, plants, water, air, geology, etc.
  • develop green “trading cards” idea
  • consult with OWU faculty
  • consult with Delaware environmental people (Sustainable Delaware)
Examples of “Action” Locations:
Atmosphere: Weather, Climate, Air
  • weather monitoring station w/real-time data collection
  • air quality monitoring: outside
  • air quality monitoring: inside (Sci Center Atrium)
  • impacts of climate warming monitoring
  • Christina Fesz, Xandi Titus
  • Delaware Run: water monitoring (agricultural and lawn run-off)
  • City of Delaware water: real-time data collection (?)
  • Retention ponds (Meeks, new Delaware YMCA)
  • Sulfur spring monitoring
  • ground water / well monitoring
  • Water runoff monitoring (buildings, pavement)
  • Locations for rain gardens (Wilmer ditch)
  • Wetlands preservation, monitoring
  • Delaware Run restoration (Sandusky St. to Olentangy River)
  • soils
Energy & Utilities
  • Silas Jolliff, Sam Newman, Adam Pinkerton, Jon Rux, Mason Tice, Keegan Varner
  • wind turbine w/real-time data collection (proposal here)
  • Solar energy issues and data; real-time data collection potential (Sam Newman)
  • Campus building energy usage: real-time data collection
  • Campus and Delaware Map of Energy Usage: like this NYC Map
  • Campus water and sewer use: data
  • Campus gas use: data
  • Geothermal monitoring (Meeks)
Waste & Recycling
  • Reed Callahan, Zack Khalifa
  • Campus garbage: data
  • Recycling locations: assess and collect data
  • Food waste locations: assess and collect data
  • paper usage (track by rate/program)
  • plastic bottled water sales (track at different locations; relate to hydration station)
Biosphere: plants, animals
  • Christina Fesz, Xandi Titus
  • Delaware Run: wildlife monitoring (bird counts, fish, etc.)
  • Delaware Run: plant monitoring
  • Tree monitoring: carbon sequestration by city trees, arboretum trees
  • Invasive species monitoring
  • Linear habitats to encourage wildlife movement
  • Monitor feral cats
Biosphere: humans
  • Amy Carr, Sophie-Helen Kiendl
  • Green business assessment: how to assess and collect data?
  • Human health assessment: how to measure, where? Delaware Health Department
  • Campus transport: monitor cars in Selby lot (vs walkers)
  • Parks: data on usage
  • Census and other demographic data
4. Green Action Trail: Develop a series of trails to connect the “action” locations
  • investigate access issues
  • connect to existing recreational trails
  • time to walk, kinetics
  • markers
  • potential users: existing students, staff, faculty, prospective students, Delaware City Schools

5. Paper / Poster Maps:

  • Revise existing poster maps to reflect an OWU “look.”
  • Revise 11×17 Sustainability Region and Green Action Trail map.

6. Online Map: Develop interactive map of sustainability region with above data and information

Project Time!

March 16, 2011

Finish your projects!

1) Please discuss strategy with me before “bothering” real people (anyone other than faculty). Always prepare yourself by doing some research ahead of time, so you don’t sound like a lizard.

2) Think about collecting information that is appropriate for your final product: a 11×17 map. You don’t need tons of information, but you do need information that is clear, coherent, and substantial and that will resonate with our audience. Talk to me to get ideas about information/data that is appropriate for your project.

3) Discuss what you are planning to do before you start creating maps or entering data in ArcGIS. This so you don’t spend a huge amount of time doing GIS work in a non-optimal manner.

4) Think about your project in terms of the sketches we created for each project. Create new sketches, layouts, etc. with my input and feedback: this will help you think about appropriate data and maps (2 and 3 above).

5) The course for the rest of the semester is unstructured. Class time is a time you can find me and you can get together with your group members. If you are not in class, I am assuming you are working outside of class on the project. Do not let the flexible nature of the class lure you into procrastination.

6) You need to have your projects complete (data collected, mapped) by Monday April 25 for a presentation of results. A course evaluation will be assigned (you assessing your work in the class, and the class) and due finals week (this should not be a huge undertaking).

For our next meeting: Monday March 21: be prepared with a specific schedule to complete your project, if you have not already done so. Pay attention to practical details: scheduling fieldwork, any equipment you may need, contacts, etc.

Get going!