It’s out, it’s out, it’s finally out! The book I wrote, together with some help from four wonderful colleagues – The People’s Guide to Spatial Thinking – was released yesterday by the National Council for Geographic Education. It’s a short “primer” on spatial thinking, designed to help you understand the what and why of this important topic. It’s a quick and entertaining read. Buy your copy today!
I like the way that this guy thought systematically about finding Waldo, a classic spatial skill of disembedding or finding hidden figures! Since he suggests that there is a specific section of the whole page where Waldo is more likely to be found than elsewhere, we shall test this hypothesis in our advanced GIS class next semester, with a few spatial statistical tests. Just to confirm that his horizontal rectangular swatch does indeed capture the most frequent placements of Waldo.
Thanks for publishing such important stories, Slate.
Since the summer, I have been working for UCGIS, the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, as their Executive Director. Translation: I manage the business-related operations of a small non-profit that’s focused on advancing and supporting the research and education ideas of the GIS-teaching faculty at its 50+ member institutions. Today, Directions Magazine printed an interview I did with them about UCGIS and some of its upcoming activities. And, it’s International GIS Day! Woo-hoo!
There’s a hip trend going around, making simple maps with labeled spaces. At least one or two a week have been crossing my computer screen lately. I’ve always referred to this approach as using maps as organizational templates. In most cases the map-makers don’t go into telling a story about why the data are where they are. They’re just labeling a place with its information, and leaving the rest up to us. The map is serving as a way to represent data by virtue of its geographical location. That is, we start with some data, and that data happens to have a 1-to-1 relationship with some location, like a state in the US, or a country in the world.
We could use a spreadsheet as an organizational template instead. In fact, many of these maps started that way. Start with a spreadsheet with an alphabetical list of all 50 states (plus D.C., which often gets overlooked), and then another column in the spreadsheet has some information about each state (let’s call it an “attribute” of that State). And maybe we know different attributes for different years.
Problem: looking at an Excel spreadsheet is boring. And it’s virtually impossible for us to envision a “pattern” from a spreadsheet. States or countries arranged alphabetically tells us nothing about the geospatial relationships among those places. Did I already mention it’s boring. Our eyes glaze over. Who wants to have glazed eyes?
Instead, by labeling each state – or country – or region – with the attribute, we can appreciate the geographic pattern of said information. When the data are categorical or nominal, you might get a map like what the most popular boy’s name has been in each state over the last 60 years, or the girls’ names, or surnames in Europe, how the Russian language engenders the names of world countries, or what each world country is “best at” (which is a wonderfully subjective way to begin a discussion), with the label being a word or a phrase.
Such data can often be represented pictorially or through icons, like the “most famous book” in each State (again, who gets to decide that?!), or the Food of the States. At least they remembered D.C.!
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. But I’m seeing these maps all over the place these days.
Temple University’s Nora Newcombe is well-versed at writing about spatial thinking in a way that makes the topic accessible to lay audiences. New to me: a piece called Seeing Relationships (pdf) in the Spring 2013 American Educator. Now she can share the results of the large meta-analysis recently completed, that documents our mind’s capacity to become more skilled at spatial tasks. She’s still firmly grounded in her own disciplinary perspective, cognitive psychology, but here she ventures into examples involving geographic space and geospatial technologies, not only mental rotation in abstract space. This piece includes call-outs to the Geospatial Semester program at James Madison University and Stanford’s Orbis project.
Nora’s oft-cited, oft-shared 2010 American Educator piece, Picture This, is still available too.
In the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Vermont, faculty are involved with a year-long initiative to learn more about maps and mapping. I had a chance to be part of their August 2013 workshop and share ideas about teaching and learning supported with geospatial technologies. Members of the department of geography are leading this effort, and though they’re disciplinary experts in this field, they themselves are learning from the new perspectives and novel projects being designed and developed. A way to spread opportunities for spatial analysis and geographical inquiry.
One small Norwegian town is geographically plagued by its position in a valley, leading to topographically-induced shading during its otherwise already dim winter days. An attempt at a targeted solution? Mirrors strategically placed.
Good luck to them! I love that it combines the best of geographical AND spatial thinking, or spatial thinking in situ. That’s also called geodesign.