Tag Archives: technology

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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Geopatial Mobility Lab – Launched with support from CFI and ORF

I’ve recently been awarded funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund. I’d like to thank both of these government funding agencies  for their support of a new research and training initiative that I call the ‘Geospatial Mobility Lab’. This effort is also co-sponsored through direct contributions of equipment and services from Esri Canada and Dell Computer.

I am actively recruiting students at the Masters and PhD levels to participate in research using this infrastructure. If you are interested, please read this and get in touch with me.

The Geospatial Mobility Lab in brief:

The widespread adoption of Internet-connected mobile devices has signaled a shift in the way that geographic information is both delivered and gathered. No longer tethered to desks, terminals, and Wi-Fi networks, location-based applications are now a key part of the mobile computing experience, providing a conduit for communication with space and place as a permanent backdrop. This project will develop a first-of-its kind testbed, the Geospatial Mobility Lab, an integrated system of mobile devices and analytic infrastructure, for the systematic evaluation of geospatial information and mobile technology. The Geospatial Mobility Lab will generate benefits for Canada and Canadians in three areas: the generation of direct economic benefits through software and use case developments conducted in partnership with private companies; training benefits through creating employees with marketable skills in software design, deployment, and evaluation; and generate social benefits in understanding the affordances and constraints of mobile device use on individual interactions, communications, and spatial behaviour. Considering the widespread adoption of mobile devices within society and the continued growth of this area of the information technology sector, research findings will impact many of the millions of Canadian citizens who use mobile devices on a daily basis.

See the official funding announcement here.

Tweet-Mapping American TV Ratings

This past winter semester I launched a new course at the University of Waterloo called “The Geoweb and Location-Based Services“. This 4th-year course introduced senior undergraduate students to the theoretical concepts and practical techniques of Web 2.0, Volunteered Geographic Information, Open Data, the Geoweb, and location-based services using mobile phones. As part of this course, students worked in groups to complete a major project.

One project that stood out was “Tweet-Mapping American TV Ratings” by the team of Andrea Minano, Sarah Knight, and Michael Goldring. The aim of their project was to analyze the relationship between social media and the popularity of television shows through ratings. To do this, they gathered data from the social media network Twitter. According to Socialguide.com, 32 million individuals in the United States tweeted about television in 2012. Additionally, studies recently conducted by the television ratings company Nielsen, suggest that Twitter is a robust way to derive TV ratings. Here you can see a map of TV shows from Friday March 22nd, with the location of individual tweets shown:

TV show tweets from Friday March 22nd
TV show tweets from Friday March 22nd

The use of Twitter to rate the popularity of TV shows was tested in this project by gathering tweets from March 18, 2013 to March 24, 2013, and then mapping their spatial distribution. Click here to view an interactive map of these results. These individual tweets were then aggregated to the state level, to give the most popular shows per state. These most-tweeted TV shows per state were then compared to official national TV ratings. For those Walking Dead fans, you will be pleased to note that Twitter is basically taken over on Sunday nights:

TV Tweet Map for Sunday, March 24th
TV Tweet Map for Sunday, March 24th

This series of maps were made with Leaflet, an open source web-mapping platform. Seven web-maps were created for each day of the week. In each of these, US states were symbolized according to its most-tweeted TV show. Pie charts can be seen by clicking on each state displaying the three most tweeted TV shows per state. Finally, two bar graphs accompany each map: one showing the three most tweeted TV shows at a national scale, and another showing the three highest-rated TV shows at a national scale.

Overall, the results proved the initial hypothesis correct since there was a clear correlation between most-tweeted TV shows and official TV ratings. However, it is important to note that the results continue to offer some limitations. For instance, there are data limitations because only 1% of tweets are geolocated, and the age of people using Twitter ranges primarily from 18 to 29 years. For this reason, TV shows that are popular with older audiences may not be tweeted about but continue to receive high ratings. Future studies may be conducted in this newly-researched subject; yet, it is evident that tweets have a relationship with TV ratings in the United States, and these can be effectively mapped to find any relevant spatial patterns.