GIS Research UK (GISRUK) 2013

GISRUK 2013 Lecture

About a month ago, I had the pleasure of attending the GISRUK 2013 annual conference, and am still reeling from the experience. Often I find that conferences tend to have an over-representation of a particular population, though that’s to be expected, as it’s the nature of a conference to bring together people of similar interests. GISRUK was a pleasant surprise as there seemed to be a quite diverse crowd – business people and charity workers, civil servants and academics – largely due to the wide range of interest covered by the talks.

For those of you who may follow my twitter account (@mapperpat), you’ll likely see next to no activity for some time, but when I’m at conferences I make sure to let those who are interested know what’s going on, who’s talking, and the interesting things being said. To recap, though, the following talks really got me thinking:

  • (Keynote) ‘A name is a statement.’ some implications for geo-genealogy, geo-temporal demographics and social network (Paul Longley) and A geodemographic analysis of the ethnicity and identity of Twitter users in Greater London (Muhammad Adnan, Guy Lansley and Paul Longley) – it was great to see their work on using surnames to identify ancestry, building on previous work I’ve heard done by Paul’s researchers. We all work very near each other, but often don’t get a chance to chat and find out the details of the work we’re all doing. I got the chance to discuss with them the intricacies they face (i.e. bias due to the type of people who participate in the study, taking into account first name, Anglicized names, etc.) and was thoroughly impressed with the analytical and data processing methods they employ.
  • (Keynote) ‘Information Visualization: What’s Going On?” – this presentation absolutely wowed me! So often we take the deluge of information, colour it how we see fit (i.e. what doesn’t take us too long and we think looks acceptable) and call it a day; but doing this falls short of what our original intention was – to convey a particular bit of information in an understandable way. Jason had a presentation that used the custom created gicentre utils to show information in all kinds of new and interesting ways. He discussed not only how visualisations should look, but how they make us feel; we could all do with taking a page out of Jason’s cartographic book. As used in his presentation, check out this video of how someone creatively visualised the decline of empires:
  • Session 8B (People, Places and Pedagogy!) Presentations: ‘GIS us a clue!’ Quantitative Methods teaching in the geography departments of UK Schools and Universities (Richard Harris, Katharine Fitzpatrick and Cahterine Souch), Google Maps ‘Journey-immersion’ – Can the Google Maps API allow the creation of a narrative, to take the user on a journey and to tell a story using dynamic progression through time and space? (Jon Slade, Claire Ellul and Maurizio Gibin), Understanding Community Mapping as a Soci-Technical Work Domain (Mark Iliffe, Robert Houghton and Jeremy Morley) and SpaceBook: Designing and Evaluating Spoken Dialogue Based Systems for Urban Exploration William Mackaness, Phil Bartie, Tiphaine Dalmas, Srini Janarthanam, Oliver Lemon, Xingkun Liu and Bonnie Webber) – this particular session was of great interest to me as it crosses over with my own research interests (check out my blog). There were some great central messages to educators, in that we need to listen to what the people want to learn and adjust our methodologies accordingly. In a presentation that mentioned the top GIS that are used in education, I was surprised to see Google Earth as the front runner (I personally thought ArcGIS had that one, hands down, with their distribution of free software to educational institutions); but then again, as Confucius said, “why kill a mosquito with a cannon ball?” Educational applications of GIS can be a messy, with no guarantee for uptake/interest and people using things in “wrong” ways, but through those experiences, we all learn, and together, we make things better.

I did see many other great presentations, and am grateful to all those who presented and shared their knowledge with us. It was wonderful meeting and chatting with those I could and I’m very much looking forward to GISRUK 2014.

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