All posts by pjohnson

I am a postdoctoral researcher at McGill University.

Crowdsourcing the Disaster Management Cycle

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and recent record flooding in Bangladesh, I was reminded of the foundational role of mobile communications technology in the response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. A pivotal moment in the development of the Geoweb, the response to Hurricane Katrina (or lack thereof) is widely considered to be the first example of the use of mobile phones to communicate crisis information. Using mobile technology during a crisis can support first responders to identify the location of affected individuals as well as to give emergency response managers more up-to-date information as a crisis unfolds. A recent publication from UW graduate Sara Harrison picks up on this thread, examining the disaster management cycle and presenting results from US and Canadian emergency managers as to their adoption of crowdsourcing tools and social media. Constraints and challenges to adoption of crowdsourcing are presented, with specific recommendations for government at all levels. The integration of crowdsourcing into emergency management systems can provide a conduit for two-way exchange of information, in real time, between citizens in need and emergency response professionals. In the decade + since Katrina, the development of this area of application of crowdsourcing has begun to show real benefits, but as Sara Harrison’s paper shows, there are still real development and deployment challenges to be overcome.

Read the full paper here, available open access:

https://www.igi-global.com/article/crowdsourcing-disaster-management-cycle/185638

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Hurricane Irma

 

 

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2017 ESRI User Conference and The Cost(s) of Geospatial Open Data

I had the amazing opportunity recently to attend the 2017 ESRI User Conference in San Diego, California. The ESRI ‘UC’ as it’s known is an annual event that showcases what’s new and hot in the ESRI GIS world, and provides a chance for over 16,000 GIS and map nerds to get together, learn from each other, and generally celebrate everything geospatial.

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What’s your super power?

I was attending the UC with the support of the ESRI Canada Centres of Excellence program (of which UW is a participant), and to present a co-authored work for a special issue of Transactions in GIS. The paper I presented, co-authored with Renee Sieber, Teressa Scassa, Monica Stephens, and Pamela Robinson, is titled ‘The Cost(s) of Geospatial Open Data”, and is available open access from the publisher site. The SSHRC Partnership Grant Geothink.ca has a lovely writeup of the paper and some thoughts of mine about our motivations for writing it. I had some supportive and thought-provoking comments during and after the presentation as part of the Frontiers in GIScience session organized by Dr. Michael Gould from ESRI.

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Dark conference room, but sunny outside

I also had the chance to take part in many of the UC events, including the vendor expo, map gallery, Canada night social and other events. One thing I couldn’t help noticing was the shout-out to Roger Tomlinson, the ‘father of GIS’, on this display of the ESRI press 20th anniversary. I had the pleasure a number of years ago to meet Dr. Tomlinson at a reception after his awarding of an honorary degree at McGill, and the naming of Dr. Renee Sieber’s research lab in his honour.

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Roger Tomlinson on ESRI Press 20th anniversary display

Lastly, no trip to California would be complete without some delicious fish tacos beside the water. Here was one particularly notable dinner at the Carnitas Snack Shack on the San Diego harbourfront. Great tacos and great Alpine Duet IPA. And yes, that 99/100 rating on Ratebeer.com is well-earned!

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Capturing Balloon Airphotos with Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI) Geotech Magnet Program

We are fortunate here in Waterloo Region to have access to a unique high school-level program focused on geospatial technologies. The Waterloo Region District School Board offers a Geotechnology magnet program at Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI) high school. This program attracts students from all over the region, who come to WCI to participate in advanced instruction in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, and geospatial analysis. Students from this program learn in a dedicated computer lab, equipped with industry leading ArcGIS software from Esri. This is an exceptional program, providing a real educational advantage to students at the high school level who are interested in geospatial technologies.

As part of our high school outreach program in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, I went and worked with the current WCI Geotech class to setup data collection using a digital camera attached to a helium weather balloon provided by the Public Lab, a non-profit organization supporting hardware development for data collection.

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Preparing the balloon rigging for launch. Photo courtesy of Mark Menhennet, WCI.

After an introduction session in the classroom, we took the balloon and camera out to the WCI field for a morning flight. Students handled the balloon while it took images of the playing fields and nearby developments along Columbia Street.

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Camera crash guard rig. Photo courtesy of Mark Menhennet, WCI. 
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Hazel and Columbia area of Waterloo

 

The balloon reached a max height of approximately 600 feet before the students hauled it back in.

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Hauling in the balloon.

In their afternoon class, students used the open source web platform MapKnitter, to stretch and align the various photos from the balloon to create a composite image.

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Composite image made with MapKnitter

 

This hands-on experience for students showed how easy it can be to collect and assemble your own amateur airphotos. Typically we think of this type of data collection as something that only professional geospatial companies or governments can do. However, with the right type of tools, this custom data collection and mapping is open to nearly anyone with an interest. Experiencing first-hand this type of data collection can show high school students just one of the many applications of geospatial technology, and the potential of a career in geospatial technology. Given the success of this first collaboration with the WCI Geotech Magnet Program, I’m looking forward to working together to expand this student experience in the future!

Aligning Canadian Open Data Programs with International Best Practices – Geothink.ca and OpenNorth

The Geothink partnership is a great opportunity for academics to work directly with those organizations pushing the leading edge of our field. Last fall, uWaterloo student Erin Bryson held a co-op placement working at Montreal-based non-profit (and Geothink partner) OpenNorth. Working closely with OpenNorth staff, Erin wrote an excellent white paper on the potential for current Canadian open data programs to adopt the International Open Data Charter (IODC). The IODC presents 6 main principles as a set of best practices for governments around the world that produce and distribute open data (see image below from opencharter.net).

 

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In creating her report, Erin interviewed a number of municipal governments across Canada, asking them to consider how the IODC could inform their existing work with delivering open data and to determine how aligned existing practices are with the IODC. Erin’s full paper is available for download from the OpenNorth website. Congratulations Erin, and thank you to OpenNorth for your continued work with Geothink.

Volunteered Drone Imagery: Challenges and constraints to the development of an open shared image repository

I recently had the pleasure of working on a new project called “Volunteered Drone Imagery: Challenges and constraints to the development of an open shared image repository”, with Dr. Britta Ricker, University of Washington-Tacoma, and Sara Harrison, a recently-graduated MES student from Waterloo.

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OpenAerialMap Data Browsing Interface

We were inspired by the overall concept of OpenStreetMap, a user-generated map of the world, and wanted to think about how the same concept – volunteered geographic information, could be applied to the explosion of imagery data now being made available through the use of recreational drones. There is an emerging ecosystem of technologies and systems to support not only the creation of micro-level imagery, but to overcome the daunting task of sharing this information. We looked to the OpenAerialMap project as an example of this. Drawing on technology adoption constraints literature, we consider the main challenges to creating this open shared image repository (emphasis on open here – there are a number of private-sector options that do not allow imagery to be shared or re-purposed).

Together, we wrote a peer-reviewed paper that was accepted at the long-running and highly-competitive Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences (HICSS-50) for 2017. Dr. Ricker was happy to present this on our behalf, and this paper will serve as a jumping off point for further research into how volunteered imagery sources can be both contributed and shared more easily. This paper is available open access through the University of Hawaii at Manoa repository.

New Paper: Strategic analysis of a water rights conflict in the south western United States

A new paper by PhD Candidate Simone Philpot has just been published in the Journal of Environmental Management! Download a copy here: http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1T8CR14Z6tPQ~k 

Simone, along with co-authors Dr. Keith Hipel and Dr. Peter Johnson, uses the Graph Model for Conflict Resolution to model the longstanding dispute over water allocation between Nevada and Utah. This modeling process allows for new insights into how different actors perform in different situations. Congrats to Simone for publishing her work in a very prestigious venue!

Abstract:

A strategic analysis of the ongoing conflict between Nevada and Utah, over groundwater allocation at Snake Valley, is carried out in order to investigate ways on how to resolve this dispute. More specifically, the Graph Model for Conflict Resolution is employed to formally model and analyze this conflict using the decision support system called GMCR+. The conflict analysis findings indicate that the dispute is enduring because of a lack of incentive and opportunity for any party to move beyond the present circumstances. Continued negotiations are not likely to resolve this conflict. A substantial change in the preferences or options of the disputants, or new governance tools will be required to move this conflict forward. This may hold lessons for future groundwater conflicts. It is, however, increasingly likely that the parties will require a third party intervention, such as equal apportionment by the US Supreme Court.

Keywords:

  • Trans-boundary resource management;
  • Groundwater;
  • Water rights;
  • Decision support system;
  • Conflict analysis

Group Members at AAG 2016: San Francisco

Looking forward to some sun (or fog) in California! Myself and two group members, Sara Harrison and Qing Lu are off to present at the Association of American Geographers annual conference in San Francisco. I’ve pasted the links to sessions below. Also check out other Geothink.ca presenters as well. Hope to see you there!

The Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers will be in San Francisco, CA from March 29 to April 2.

Sara Harrison

Crowdsourcing in Emergency Management: A comparative analysis of crowdsourcing adoption by governments in the United States and Canada

 

Qing Lu 

Potential and challenges of mobile technologies in the public sector: a case study of 311 requests in Edmonton, Canada

 

Peter Johnson

Reflecting on the Success of Open Data: How Municipal Governments Evaluate Open Data Programs