Maps and the Geospatial Revolution

Lesson 1, Lecture 1


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Okay, let's get started. This is Lecture 1 from Lesson 1.

So I think the geospatial revolution is transforming how we do three major things. One of them is how we navigate, how we get from point A to point B. How we make decisions using geography. And how we share stories about what we do everyday.

Maps are now interactive, as opposed to static. We don't have to go to a bookstore anymore to buy something. You gotta plan way ahead for a trip or anything like that. And maps are now embedded in almost every single thing we do. So there's new technologies that have made spatial information more widely accessible like our phones, laptops, tablets all that kind of stuff. But it's also new science, new geographic science, that's made it possible for us to actually use spatial information in new and more powerful ways. So I'm going to talk about all three of these aspects that use spatial revolution today. So how we navigate is one of the major things that I think has transformed. If you think about even what, what someone like my daughter, who's a year and half old now, what she expects to have available at her fingertips now in terms of navigation is completely different than even someone born in 1980 like me. when I was born you know, the way you get from point A to point B is by already, already knowing the route somehow, having done it yourself. Or you go to bookstore, buy a paper map, hopefully they have one for the place you're going, and then you navigate that way. Or you stop and ask for directions, which is kind of hard and awkward to do.

Now my daughter for example, is born into a world where that's almost an insane notion to have to depend, depend on static technology like that. And for someone like her, her entire life is going to be filled with these digital affordances digital maps that come wirelessly to a device and tell you exactly where to go. So even the time it takes to plan a trip is now completely different than it was about ten years ago, for most people, assuming that you have these devices, right? and we're already kind of annoyed that our technology isn't even perfect yet, right? It's reached the point where it's pervasive at the level that we kind of complain about the free stuff that helps us navigate almost anywhere in the world with almost no notice. and most of the time flawlessly, right, whenever there's a little problems with it we sort of get a little bit upset about it. So I think that's revolutionary that it's now pervasive that anybody can navigate almost anywhere with very little technical ability, right? You can just fire up web browser and use your phone, do it.

Beyond just navigation though, I think what's revolutionary is, is now how we use geography to make better decisions. So, even simple decisions like the wonderful, age-old spousal argument around, where should we eat dinner tonight, are now enabled made easier by geospatial technology, or in some cases, harder because we have more options, right? So my wife and I want to know, want to figure out where we're going to go eat. And that could be like, well, I want to have Chinese food and she wants something with bacon in it, and we need to know where is the nearest restaurant that serves Chinese food with bacon in State College, right? We want to, we want to know whether or not it's open. What's the traffic like between here and there. And we can actually get an answer to that really quickly and help us make a decision. it doesn't actually solve the argument, right? It just kind of makes it a little bit longer in some cases. But, those kinds of decisions are now possible because of geography as well. It's not just navigation, it's actually knowing what to do, right? How, how to do things next. And that's a really mundane, silly kind of example, but the cutting edge of technology in science and geography is focused on way harder questions, such as what parts of this coast should we evacuate for the hurricane that's coming. And that's a way more difficult problem than one where the answers are not quite as clear yet. But there's a lot of effort in the science of geography right now to try to figure out questions like this. And we're going to cover a lot of that stuff in this class.

The third area that I think is quite revolutionary now is the geography can be used to ground the stories of our lives. So pictures, for example, can be really easily geotagged to make maps of your memories. You can, you can add a place to where you did something. you can add a place to your tweet, for example, and say that I talked about this wonderful coffee I had at the coffee place that I bought the drink, right? You can share all these crazy, mundane things. You can start to tell stories about your lives that are grounded in where exactly they happened. And if you think about even ten years ago, this was an extremely cumbersome thing to do. It may have been possible then with the technology that existed, but it was not easy and it certainly wasn't accessible to lots of people. And 20 years ago, it really wasn't even possible, to be honest. I mean there were maybe some people who had at the extreme cutting edge who were using lots of devices to try to do this kind of geotagging, but it certainly wasn't even a little bit common at that point. So I think that's a really transformative thing. So here's an example to look at. this is Flickr, a big popular photo sharing site. And what I've done here is I'm going to capture the priceless memory of my daughter crying during a time when she was getting a bunch of presents, I think this was at Christmas. And I want to ground this in the geographic context in where it happened. So I've assigned a location for it in our neighborhood at the house the place where this happened. And, and now I have this memory attached to a map. And so, for the rest of her life, whenever she wants to go to see exactly this time when she was so upset, so unhappy, and and really couldn't understand how many presents she was getting and, you know, her, her emotional turmoil was connected to this place. I want her to be able to relive that memory in the same depth and richness that I did, when it first happened, right? So I think that telling stories with with maps now is one of the most amazing things that's possible from geospatial revolution.

Look at the great stuff we can capture like this.