Workshop: Getting IN the map

The more I work with all-things-spatial, the more I want to infuse this sort of work across campus — maps as data visualizations, spatial context as framing for questions and answers, spatial patterns as answers and questions.

Paideia seemed an excellent opportunity to test-drive some ideas and spread the Gospel of Spatial Framing (or was that The Good Word of The Geospatial?) to an eager and willing audience. A total of 23 people joined me for an hour-long workshop, where we covered what I decided were some necessary basics –

  • What is a GIS and, what does it do? What kinds of questions can you ask with a GIS?
  • What does geospatial data look like, and how is it different from possibly-more-familiar tabular data?
  • Points to ponder when conducting spatial analysis OR when consuming maps:
    • distortion, representation and projections/coordinate systems (aka “the orange peel problem”)
    • data aggregation (for a clear example of the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem, aka “bins matter”, see these 2012 election results maps)
    • normalization (That choropleth you keep using…I do not think it means, what you think it means; one example)
  • Relevant technologies, with nods both to Esri’s analytical workhorse ArcGIS (for which we have a site license) and the cross-platform, open-source qGIS
  • Two examples of recent GIS projects (environmental studies, political science) and a quick list of current mapping/GIS projects around Reed

I left the students with some links (below) and urged them to contact me to get access to Esri tutorials or just talk maps.




Note: I presented variations on this same material in Pol311 (The Political Science Laboratory; methods class) and Econ352 (Natural Resource Economics) in Fall 2013. 

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