Archive for the ‘Brainwash’ Category

Geography Matters for Conferences

I wish I could make the ESRI DevSummit, but it’s my kids spring break and Palm Springs just isn’t a family destination. So maybe this summer we’ll make it to San Diego – a very family friendly venue. I wonder if this somehow polarizes the demographics of the Dev Summit, resulting in attendees with either no kids or grown kids.

Keeping it Real at GITA
I’m glad to see energy policy being highlighted in the GITA conference keynote. The mayor makes some good points. Transport costs as a determinant for land use is all geography 101 though. With so many geographers around why don’t we hear more about this?

It sometimes seems ironic that thousands of people continue to fly to distant locations to talk about how the internet is going to change everything.

Keeping it Virtual at Life2.0
I wish I had time to attend the Life2.0 summit, being hosted in second life. While virtual conferences sound like the future, I wonder if they can be a forum that overcomes groupthink. On line I can subscribe to ideas that fit all my pre-conceived notions, and filter out people that annoy me. At a keynote, however I’m forced to listen to ideas that I may find disturbing. So maybe meatspace is better.

Mixing it Up at Mix08
Microsoft clearly attempted to overcome groupthink by arranging Guy Kawasaki’s interview of Steve Ballmer at Mix08. Maybe they also realized watching Ballmer’s atavar do a monkey dance in Second Life wouldn’t be so exciting.

Keeping the Faith at SxSWi
By contrast SxSWi made no such attempts. I wasn’t there, but it seems like attendees were too drunk on koolaid to tolerate someone asking Twitter founder some tough questions. Read about the SxSWi stage interview of Twitter founder by BusinessWeek’s Sarah Lacy. Given that Zuckerberg is the youngest person ever named to Forbes billionaire list, I wonder if the young crowd viewed Lacy as a traitor to the movement. Ageism matters – especially with regard to Web2.0 adoption.

In my view this shows Microsoft is more committed to open discussion of differing viewpoints than the Twitter kids at SxSWi.

Now if only James Fee could do an on stage interview with Jack Dangermond …


Learned Helplessness

A GIS manager here in San Antonio has stirred up some discussion, after Adena commented on his interview here stating

“People interested in working in geographic information systems must understand that everything learned today will be useless in the future because technology constantly changes, the geographic information systems manager for the city of San Antonio said April 12.”

This assumes that what is being learned is strictly technology, without any sort of scientific foundation.

Astronomy is not about telescopes. Geography is not about GIS.

In any discipline I suppose there is a risk that a tool can cultivate a state of “learned helplessness” resulting in users who are unable to imagine solutions to problems for which their tool was not designed. Ever try to look at a black hole with a telescope?

The problem, though, is that the market does not reward mastery of theory in the short term (and for astronomers, not even in the long term). So maybe what kids need is to learn how to learn more quickly … remember learning the planets ? “Mark’s Very Extravagant Mother Just Sent Us Ninety …” is obsolete now that pluto is no longer a planet. Nevertheless my kids thought up several new mnemonics to remember by.

Learned helplessness becomes quite apparent when viewing the attitude many GIS users have towards major software vendors. I won’t mention any names here, let’s just say their initials are E.S.R.I. Many times I’ve heard users with very constructive ideas that fail to make any suggestions for how those ideas could be used to improve software quality. They take on a kind of fatalistic “oh they would never listen to me” attitude. I don’t think its ESRI’s fault. Instead, I think the problem is an educational system that’s trained users to push the right buttons like rats in a skinner box.

Flu Geography

I’ve seen a lot maps showing the spread of avian flu. I have not heard much discussion about how the flu might alter our spatial behavior or impact internet usage.  Likely the first thing will be to keep the kids home from school.  Many more employers will allow remote workers.  Instead of going to the stores, more people will opt for delivery.

All these changes will increase our reliance on the internet.  Internet facilitated home-schooling might reach a critical mass so that after the flu subsides many children may not re-enroll in public schools.  More offices may realize enabling remote workers is cost effective, not just during a pandemic.  Internet based grocery shopping will finally become profitable – viral marketing in the most literal sense.

Modeling Infection

Since this blog is about GIS programming,  let’s consider Conway’s Game of Life as a type of GIS modeling.  It would be interesting to see a tool that would allow you to load up some real-world GIS data into a dynamic layer, push a button, and say “there goes the neighborhood!”.  Property values seem to change in an infectious way.

New urbanism claims a 5 minute walk to get an ice cream cone is the litmus test of neighborhood health.  I think this could be modeled.  I wonder how the density promoted by New Urbanism will fare after a flu scare.  Suburban sterility may become more appealing.  Anyway, seems like a Game of Life approach could be used to model some New Urbanism.  Use parcels for cells and distance instead of adjacency.

Infection of Modelers

These are just ideas, but they may also be thought of as memes.  While I really like using ESRI software, sometimes I fear that its proliferation has effectively innoculated the geospatial community so that ideas that cannot be implemented with ArcGIS are simply ignored.  Think of it as herd immunity.

Just as gene therapy has been identified as having potential benefits, maybe the geospatial community should consciously enroll into meme therapy.  I think James Fee’s exploration of Manifold serves as a good example of this.