Thursday, January 31, 2008

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Chapter 4 map

Who I am and what it has to do with GIS

This is an introductory sort of post to tell any readers out there who I am and why I care about Geographical Information Systems. If you don't want to know, don't read it. It might be long and boring.

In the fall of 2006, during my short-lived and golden career as a student journalist at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, I was given a press release about the opening of something called the Applied Visualization Lab at AB Tech's Enka Campus.
For the article, I interviewed someone from NEMAC. That is, the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center. and someone from the NCDC. That is, the National Climactic Data Center.
Listening to these folks talk about how science is using visual tools like GIS to present and analyze information utterly fascinated me. It seemed to me incredibly disappointing that I was doing my undergraduate research with stacks of boring scholarly articles while students on the other side of campus were using these fun interesting research tools, and getting paid for their undergraduate research. Students in mass communication do not get paid to do research.
I wrote down the date of the Applied Visualization Conference on my calendar. A small part of my brain said I would be doing something with GIS some day, and life happened and I didn't go to the conference because I would have had to skip my Mass Communication Law class to go, and I was struggling to pass mass communication law.
GIS and the other visual modeling these folks were talking about reminded me of one of the last projects I did at Swarthmore College before I left Swarthmore so I could move to Asheville North Carolina and get my future husband to fall in love with me.
In the spring of 2004, I took a class called environmental engineering. It was an introductory class I used to fulfill my remaining required science and math credits. In this class, as a final project, we used some sort of visual mathematical modeling software to calculate something relating to populations.
Being at that time fascinated by the economics of homelessness, I used a statistical equation I got from a scholarly article predicting incidence of homelessness based on the demographics of various communities and I applied it to census data on the city of Asheville. (The original equation had been built based on a study of homelessness in New York City).
I can't remember the name of the modeling software we used, but getting to play around with it was the most fun I ever had doing a final project as an undergraduate, (although I have done other fun research projects, including one on Ida B. Wells and one on Iraqi politicians).
It was this experience that led me to decide to pursue civil engineering at AB Tech when I moved back to Asheville.
Of course, civil engineering wasn't nearly as exciting as my environmental engineering class had been. I admit to having zero interest in construction projects. And as the only girl in the entire curriculum and one of only 3 people in the curriculum with a liberal arts background instead of a background of working in construction or road-building, I found myself unable to cope with things like construction estimating.
My parents wanted me to get a bachelor's degree and they were paying for it, so I happily escaped civil engineering and went and became a journalism major at UNCA. I graduated in May 2007. I got married a few weeks later, and my husband and I decided to stay in the Asheville area, thus making it difficult to find journalism positions.
I have been a data-entry clerk since September 2006. This is a boring position, so I have decided to procure a Certificate in GIS. What a journalism graduate who was almost a history major does with a GIS certificate, I'm not sure. But I figure I'll try to entertain myself by doing interesting stuff on my own up until the point where someone decides they want to hire me to do interesting stuff.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Chapter 3 Map

Day 1 -- GIS 111

Here is another post about this class

Day 1

Day 1 of the GIS experience at the grand institution of Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College:

I am currently daydreaming about mapping various things. This is my most prominent GIS research daydream:

When I was a history student at Swarthmore College, I discovered a book called "The De Soto Chronicles", which is a compilation of all the primary source writings on the exploration of Hernando De Soto through the southeastern United States, translated into English. As a resident of Western North Carolina, this matters to me because it is thought to be the first written documentation of Western North Carolina. As an amateur historian, I am fascinated by this text and have read it many times. It is incredibly geographical. And different scholars have produced various different estimations of the path that De Soto and company traveled. But think of what historians could do if they were using GIS software. Not only could they have layers of ecological landmarks -- the contours of the land, the locations of rivers, but someone could also take current knowledge of archaeological sites from the period and add these to the picture, allowing for a more nuanced picture of the world De Soto traveled through and perhaps the ability to link the towns he passed through to really existing archaeological sites of towns. Since GIS allows one to attach notes to certain places, tons of useful information could be embedded in this map. Think of the historical analysis it would allow one to do.

Now I just need to find someone to pay me to do that research. :)