Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Closing Remarks

First and foremost I wish to thank everyone who helped make the virtual "convention" possible.  Thank you for your guest posts and presentations.

The main goal of this convention was to show what geographers discuss, present, and research.  I hoped you found some of the information interesting.  I hope some of the tweets also provided entertaining.

I only wish the Association of American Geographers was more active in its outreach to the public during their convention.  The conference was the perfect time to reach out to the public and show exactly what geography is and what it can do for the public, businesses, governments, and the world.  However, the outreach done by the AAG was very minimal.  A Google News search for "Association of American Geographers" for the last week only gives four results, three of them published before the meeting and the remaining one did not deal with this year's meeting.  The AAG's own press room released its last statement nine days before the conference.  On Twitter the AAG was silent during the conference except for a tweet concerning the Minnesota reception (party).


Here is hoping for another excellent virtual convention next year as well as better AAG outreach!

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Megapolitan America Review

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2012!

Eddie Beaver is a Geography Graduate Student at UNC-Greensboro.



Lang and Nelson's Megapolitan America offers a revised take on a 20th Century obsession of urban, political and economic geographers, the mega-city and its environs. They present a detailed vision of a developing state of urban affairs while crafting a compelling case for the America of 2040-2050 that builds on the efforts of researchers and exceeds the efforts of pop-urbanists such as Joel Kotkin (The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050) most prominently. It is a declaration of a new geography, fueled by commuting and migration patterns, the endemic growth and recognition of regional problems and the increased pressures of national and global competitive talent, production and service rivalries. Marshaling a mini-library of substantial data encompassing everything from economic development to population migration, the authors amply support their proposal of a megapolitan America.

This megapolitan geography is comprised of 23 megapolitan areas (from Florida Atlantic to Chesapeake) that link up with contiguous megapolitans to form 10 megaregions (ala Texas Triangle and the Piedmont). Based on the working definition of the Census' 'Combined Statistical Areas' (itself a combination of multiple metropolitan statistical areas), the megapolitans can comprise a large number of contiguous metropolitan and even micropolitan areas into massive configurations of millions of people in areas the size of small European countries. This last point is important since Lang and Nelson emphasize that since more than 2/3 of the country's population resides among the 10 megaregions, the actual population density of most of America is comparable to European levels, a resounding rejection of significant myths popular among both the left and right about small towns and sprawl alike.

'Regional Governance, Not Government'

This Megapolitan concept is grounded in a vision of public-private linkages and flexibility. Much as successful regional planning organizations emphasize concrete problems and opportunities to solve and exploit in cooperation with the many interest and power groups under their voluntary umbrella, so follows the megapolitan concept.  Enabling legislation, a change in definition in transportation legislation by Congress (shifting funding from 'metropolitan' areas to 'combined statistical areas') and loosening of funds sharing regulations appear to be the only legislative/government actions that would be called for to help interested metropolitan areas align with one another into megapolitans on the issues of the present and future.  Above all else, megapolitan America is about cooperation in economic development, maximizing increasingly scarce public resources and private capacities. Of course, there are intriguing possibilities for improved environmental protection (watersheds and natural lands), land-use reforms (the minimization of leap-frog development and compelling market pressure to redevelop brownfield sites and other infill) and transportation efficiency (the authors do not mention it but regional deregulation of transportation options such as MegaBus would have a significant impact on congestion).

'Geography Has Such Power...'

Geographic constructs have enormous potency in the imaginations and actions of business and civic leaders. The Census Bureau/OMB's restructuring of geographies into micropolitan and metropolitan regions in 2003 exemplifies this as numerous micropolitan regions in particular adapted their new identities with the fervor of a convert as they trumpeted their micropolitan regions' proximity to metropolitan areas and key infrastructure, abundant land for development and other location advantages. Time will tell whether megapolitan regions and areas have a similar impact but if ongoing developments on the ground (from commuting patterns, business investment flows and governmental cooperation at different levels from mayors to regional planning organizations to governors to county councils) are worth accounting for, the concept or something approximating it is well on the way towards realization in policy and planning.

This book is certainly time well spent. The only concern is with the price. Since it contains so many detailed color maps, the price is significantly more than the common hardcover, more akin to a mid-priced textbook ($55). Ideally, an E-edition will be released that more fits the budgets of most readers.

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Snowstorms from Canada and other Popular Weather Labels

Welcome to the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  Guest contributor "Canada" gives a post on snowstorms and her home and native land.

Guest Contributor "Canada" lives near the Great Lakes and doesn't quite understand her American friends' longing for snow, or some of the popular weather labels out there.

It's the end of February and we hear forecasts of much snow. It has been a mild winter in Southern Ontario. Most of the snow that has fallen has melted within a day or two and the roads have been cleared quickly. Rarely did the defroster or a squirt of washer fluid not take care of the frost on the windshield. It has been a relatively winter-less winter with the main signs of cold weather being leafless tress and people some people
wearing hats and gloves. People were outside walking around rather than shoveling snow or helping cars that were stuck or had slid off the road.
 
People wondered where winter was and blamed "global warming" as a reason.  According to National Geographic global warming should produce an increase in precipitation.
 
With very little ice on the lakes, wouldn't the winds pick up moisture and turn on the 'lake effect snow'  that is characteristic of winter in Southern Ontario. It was a winter no one expected. Where was winter ?

However newscasts this past week warned of inevitable problems and cautioned everyone to leave extra time for travel.  Even The Weather Network had "storm warnings" on. All the satellite and radar maps showed a strong system coming and a somewhat significant snowfall would be inevitable. Even the feeds from American television in the surrounding states had snowfall warnings.

I could hear the wind howling and soon the large flakes of snow were practically blowing sideways. I really should have taken photos or video of it. I have met many people living further south, who truly honestly believe I live in a land that is covered with ice and snow most of the year. Politically north, a higher latitude, a reputation for cold arctic air and the North Pole, well why wouldn't snow come from Canada?
 
The winds and air masses in North American move from west to east and generally on a slightly north east trajectory. If the system floats a little further south than initial projections, I am happy. Less systems over the Great Lakes means less snow.
 
So why then, when a large system brings the cold air and precipitation do we think of it as 'Canadian'?   Many times the system dumping the white flakes on me and my neighbours didn't come from the great white north  or even our Prairie provinces.  It came from our neighbours to the west and south... likely from one of those states known for mountains and skiing.  We do define areas by their weather and climate characteristics sometimes.
 
Do we think of the tornadoes and summer thunderstorms as originating from the American south or the Gulf of Mexico ?  Do we just accept the convectional precipitation as normal to threaten an hour of a July or August picnic with all traces of it to disappear soon thereafter as normal Canadian summer? Does weather have a nationality then?
 
I long for those days, where again people may fuss about the heat, global warming and rush to those lakes for a cooling breeze and we Canadians say it would be way too hot to travel south at this time to visit American friends.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Engaging Citizens with Maps and to Map

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2012!

Eric Wolf of the United States Geological Survey gave a talk at the Association of American Geographers convention and the WhereCampTB conference on engaging citizens with maps and having citizens also contribute to map making.  His WhereCampTB talk is available for viewing below.

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Mapping the Human Shape of New York City

Welcome to the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Benjamin David Hennig of the University of Sheffield gave a talk on the need for mapping the "human shape" of the worldOn his blog, Views of the World, he discusses this concept further and even provides a bit of local flair for the AAG by providing a map of the density of population of the various boroughs of New York City (featured below).


Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Interacting with Maps - The Science and Practice of Cartographic Interaction

Welcome to the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Robert Roth of the University of Wisconsin - Madison presented at the Association of American Geographers convention his dissertation Interacting with Maps: The science and practice of cartographic interaction.  The slides from his presentation are available online.

His rather large abstract reads


The current pace of innovation in interactive and web-based mapping is spectacular, and the possibility and pervasiveness of interactivity has transformed the way in which many maps are produced and consumed. Despite this remarkable pace—or perhaps because of it—there have been relatively few efforts to understand how interactive maps should be designed and used. This research directly contributes to this gap, treating the topic of cartographic interaction as a complement to cartographic representation, the traditional topic of inquiry within the field of Cartography. Cartographic interaction is described as the dialogue between a human and a map mediated through a computing device. The dissertation seeks to establish a science of cartographic interaction by accomplishing three research goals. The first research goal of the dissertation is to identify and explore the questions that need to be addressed by a science of cartographic interaction and then to review and synthesize the current state of understanding regarding these questions. Secondary sources from Cartography and related fields were reviewed to understand the current state of science regarding cartographic interaction. This review revealed a framework comprising six questions that a science of cartographic interaction must address: (1) what?, (2) why?, (3) when?, (4) who?, (5) where?, and (6) how? The background review on the sixth how? question also yielded a new way of conceptualizing and organizing existing taxonomies of cartographic interaction primitives—or the basic building blocks that altogether constitute an interaction strategy—based on the stage of interaction. Following the background review, a set of interviews then was completed with 21 participants who use cartographic interaction to support their daily work. The interview study captured the current state of practice on cartographic interaction across a number of application domains, generating additional insights into the six questions on cartographic interaction. The second research goal is to address the important how? question by developing a taxonomy of cartographic interaction primitives that is empirically derived. To this end, a pair of card sorting studies were administered with 15 participants who design and develop cartographic interfaces. The pair of studies required each participant to sort a universe of statements, drawn from the reviews on cartographic science and practice, that represented either the objective or operator stage of interaction. The resulting taxonomy of cartographic interaction primitives includes four dimensions, each aligning with a different stage of interaction: (1) goals (procure, predict, and prescribe), (2) operands (space-alone, attributes-in-space, and space-in-time), (3) objectives (identify, compare, rank, associate, and delineate), and (4) operators (enabling operators: import, export, save, edit, and annotate; work operators: reexpress, arrange, sequence, resymbolize, overlay, reproject, pan, zoom, filter, search, retrieve, and calculate). Finally, the third and final research goal is to identify prototypically successful and unsuccessful cartographic interaction strategies with a single cartographic interface, initializing a research program for developing a syntactics of cartographic interaction primitives. To this end, a cartographic interface—referred to as GeoVISTA CrimeViz—was used as a 'living laboratory' for generating initial insight into the interaction primitive taxonomy. Ten law enforcement personnel from the Harrisburg Bureau of Police completed fifteen user tasks with GeoVISTA CrimeViz that are representative of the objective and operand pairings listed in the taxonomy of cartographic interaction primitives. Analysis of the interaction logs by operator allowed for generation of several insights into the syntactics of interaction primitives as well as the development of user personas, or chronic user issues in applying the operator primitives. The research reported here represents a substantial step forward regarding the science of cartographic interaction. However, the there is still much work to be done; the insights generated by the dissertation research offer an initial foundation for structuring future scientific research on cartographic interaction.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: The AAG's Conference on Twitter Third Update

Welcome to the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!  

An update on interesting information being shared at the Association of American Geographers conference in New York City.

Penn State Geography:  noticing a tension between large scale global and small scale local research methods here

Scooter Wadsworth:  Good work being done by the AAG to understand the disconnect between Geography programs and real world work involving geography.

Scott St. George:  Druckenbrod 'Trend Intervention' methods are better able to identify prolonged changes in tree growth.

Alan McConchie:  What should cartography professors teach now? JavaScript tools, esp. open source: leaflet, jQuery, etc, says (not flash)

bthny:  Advice from : cartography students need to learn JavaScript and python and stuff.

Emily Fekete:  Deaf geographies are the most linguisticly diverse session at with at least 4 languages represented among presenters.







Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Information Diffusion and the 2011 Egyptian Uprising

Leysia Palen and Kate Starbird, both of the University of Colorado - Boulder, have presented (How) Will the Revolution be Retweeted? Information Diffusion and the 2011 Egyptian Uprising  (PDF).

While the paper is not strictly geography, social media is being used by geographers to map instability and is allowing events to be examined as if they are social infections.  The abstract reads:

This paper examines microblogging information diffusion activity during the 2011 Egyptian political uprisings.  Specifically, we examine the use of the retweet mechanism on Twitter, using empirical evidence of information propagation to reveal aspects of  work that the crowd conducts. Analysis of the widespread contagion of a popular meme reveals interaction between those who were “on the ground” in Cairo and those who were not. However, differences between information that appeals to the larger crowd and those who were doing on-the-ground work reveal important interplay between the two realms. Through both qualitative and statistical description, we show how the crowd expresses solidarity and does the work of information processing through recommendation and filtering. We discuss how these aspects of work mutually sustain crowd interaction in a politically sensitive context. In addition, we show how features of this retweet recommendation behavior could be used in combination with other indicators to identify information that is new and likely coming from the ground.

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Changes in Geography Programs in the United States

Welcome to the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Justin Holman, CEO of TerraSeer and blogger at Geographical Perspectives, has a follow-up to his post of the top twenty geography doctoral programs.  In the chart below he compares how schools' scores changed from 1995 to 2005.  In short, the geography departments in the United States were not static but evolving in a fight or die struggle.  Others, like that of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, were the seen of civil wars between human, physical, and GIS geographers which often resulted in schism.

Program
1995 Rank
2010 Rank
Change
Boston University
27
1
+26
University of Maryland College Park
29
3
+26
University of Oregon
28
6
+22
Oregon State University
33
18
+15
University of Colorado
12
2
+10
University of Kentucky
20
15
+5
Univ of California-Los Angeles
8
4
+4
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
31
27
+4
Arizona State University
15
12
+3
University of Cincinnati
36
33
+3
Clark University
9
7
+2
U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
16
14
+2
University of Arizona
19
17
+2
University of Georgia
21
21
0
U of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
22
25
-3
Pennsylvania State University
1
5
-4
Univ of California-Santa Barbara
4
9
-5
Ohio State University
5
11
-6
University of Wisconsin-Madison
2
10
-8
State Univ of New York-Buffalo
11
20
-9
University of Iowa
17
26
-9
Indiana University
25
35
-10
University of Utah
34
45
-11
Kent State University
35
46
-11
University of Kansas
26
38
-12
Syracuse University
6
19
-13
University of Hawaii at Manoa
30
43
-13
University of Washington
10
24
-14
University of California-Berkeley
6
22
-16
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
32
48
-16
University of Florida
24
42
-18
Rutgers State Univ-New Brunswick
13
34
-21
Louisiana State U & A&M College
18
41
-23
University of Texas at Austin
14
39
-25
University of Minnesota
3
37
-34

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: The AAG's Conference on Twitter Second Update

Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!  

An update on the useful and not so useful information being shared at the Association of American Geographers conference in New York City.

Michael Gould:  Chinese Geography has 3 pillars: human, physical, and GIS. Interesting classification.


Michael Gould:  In China! RT Geography is part of college entrance exams for Arts students.

Michael Gould:  "Australian Geography is healthy, but not recognized." No Geography deprtment at any aussie univ!?

Christoph Koettl:  watching interesting presentation on using low-res sat imagery for monitoring- we normally use high-rez

Molly Polk:  Asst Secretary for DOI says hope for 5 is dimming. Good news is that Landsat8 will launch in early 2013.

Ashley Baharestani:  Hearing Kurt Iveson speak on the 9-11 security state at

Kalli Fullerton:  presnting "street performes & a sense of place" thats me!

David Madden:  gayatri spivak's antipode lecture at : you want to talk about "good" globalization? we have a name for that: international socialism!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: QUAD-G – Automated Georeferencing Project

Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Jim Burt, Jeremy White, and A-Xing Zhu of the Geography Department at the University of Wisconsin - Madison have posted an online version of their AAG presentation.  The abstract makes it seems absolutely fascinating to those who wish to view old maps.

As part of the new National Map the United States Geological Survey intends to provide digital images of all its historical topographic quadrangles. Users will have access to 180,000 7.5 minute (1:24000) quadrangles and another 120,000 maps at other scales. Contractors are creating these images by scanning paper maps at resolutions of 500-600 dots per inch. Thus the scans are essentially perfect facsimiles of the existing printed archive.

Full utility of the scanned images requires that they be "georeferenced", that is, the images must be tied to a known coordinate system. For example, without georeferencing there would be no way to overlay the maps on other layers comprising the National Map, nor would it be possible to assemble a seamless image from adjoining scans.

Existing georeferencing software employs what is essentially a manual procedure requiring users to digitize known locations on the screen and enter text in dialog boxes. At about 20 minutes per scan, more than 45 person-years would be needed to georeference the entire set of scanned images. This far exceeds available resources.

Our project aims to replace the manual process with an automated procedure that can process large numbers of scans with no operator supervision.

2012 Virtual Geography Convention: Top Twenty Geography Ph.D. Programs in the United States

Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Justin Holman, CEO of TerraSeer and blogger at Geographical Perspectives, provided a link to his article and thoughts on the National Research Council's survey of doctoral programs in geography.  Be sure to read his post and other interesting posts on his blog.

According to the National Research Council, the following are the top 20 doctoral geography programs in the United States:

Rank Program Website
1
Boston University http://geography.bu.edu/
2
University of Colorado at Boulder http://www.colorado.edu/geography/
3
University of Maryland College Park http://www.geog.umd.edu/
4
University of California – Los Angeles http://www.geog.ucla.edu/
5
Penn State University http://www.geog.psu.edu/grad/
6
University of Oregon http://geography.uoregon.edu/
7
Clark University http://www.clarku.edu/geography
8
University of South Carolina – Columbia http://www.cas.sc.edu/geog/
9
University of California – Santa Barbara http://www.geog.ucsb.edu/
10
University of Wisconsin – Madison http://www.geography.wisc.edu
11
Ohio State University http://www.geography.ohio-state.edu/
12
Arizona State University http://geography.asu.edu/
13
University of California – Davis http://ggg.ucdavis.edu
14
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign http://www.geog.uiuc.edu
15
University of Kentucky http://www.uky.edu/AS/Geography/
16
University of Southern California http://www.usc.edu/dept/geography/
17
University of Arizona http://geog.arizona.edu
18
Oregon State University http://www.geo.oregonstate.edu
19
Syracuse University http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/geo
20
State University of New York at Buffalo http://www.geog.buffalo.edu/

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Why Geography Matters #10001 - The Grey Wave

Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Long time reader Eddie Beaver, who first entered into the field of Geography because of this blog, has a call to arms concerning the aging American population and how geographers can play a role in combating the negative fallout.

A series of groundbreaking transitions are underway in America (the browning of America, job polarization, and others, including intriguing hypotheticals including a significant shrinking of the
public sector). Most prominently among them is what I call the Grey Wave. As we near the point in 2025-3030 when twenty percent or more of America's population is comprised of the elderly with significant spatial variance at the state and county levels, adaptations within our economy, politics and culture are proceeding apace and will only pick up steam moving forward.

Among other terms we are hearing and will hear more of in the future, the dependency ratio alone promises to become a buzzword for years to come as Medicare costs sharply rise and crowd out other government spending. This is of course not just about the Baby Boomers and the so-called Greatest Generation. What happens with them will inform and shape the experiences of the generations following them and so we must also include, among others, the millions of Americans entering their
40's with underwater mortgages, decimated 401K's and atrophying skill sets, and also the millions of young people delaying the start of families until economic conditions improve.

As our communities are acutely affected by actions such as home purchases, school quality and entrepreneurship, how these generations and countless sub-groups navigate relations around a shrinking pie of government resources will at the least be a fascinating, critical subject to pay attention to. To consider just a few others, as nursing homes decline in significance because of cost and quality concerns, as more elderly hold off retirement to try to participate in labor markets and as multi-generational households and proximate residences increase, these trends will be joined by many other potentialities for study and consideration.

What this means for geographers is that we recognize our collective oversight. For too long, the ground around the Grey Wave has been ceded to our knowledgeable colleagues in gerontology, public health, sociology and economics. Yes, there are significant numbers of geographers studying Grey Wave issues already, yet it is abundantly clear we are entering an era with challenges and questions that far exceed even this dedicated group's considerable talents and time.

Popular issues of the day from smart growth to climate change have their place and arguably an overabundance of participants at this point. In every community, around every campus and lurking around every discussion of the present and future is The Grey Wave. It is both macro and micro, qualitative and quantitative, public and private, rural and urban, on the streets and within the GIS, American and worldwide. It even conveniently crosses ideological lines, impacting concerns about social justice and free markets alike.

Face it. Our discipline has a rich body of literature and experience that extends into every facet of The Grey Wave. Its time for some or even many of us to get involved. Unleash the geographers* on the thousands of research questions, policy problems and community issues comprising the Grey Wave.

*especially undergrads looking for research experience.

Eddie Beaver is a Geography Graduate Student at UNC-Greensboro.

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: The AAG's Conference on Twitter Update

Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com! 

For those who want to know what is going on at the American Association of Geographers' convention the Twitter hashtag #AAG2012 is a good place to check the latest updates.  Twitter, almost, gives the feeling of being there and yet allows people to save hundreds of dollars.

Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly which demonstrate how geography can be useful, interesting, and irrelevant depending on how it is done.

Kristen Graves: digitizing all their old topo maps. For free to users. So cool!

Andrew Shears as . Pimpin' panel put together by geog grad students. 2012

Kristen Grady: Innovation, exchange, dispersion of ideas, happens near high air traffic areas (int'l airports) -The Influence of Mobility by Air

Emily Fekete:   Now at session entitled Erotic Cities: Geography of Sexual Economies.

Jason FarmanDon Mitchell from Syracuse: What do you do when you're in a time when revolution isn't in the cards? You teach.


Jason FarmanGreat to hear these panelists connect Lefebvre to the Arab Spring & Occupy and, ultimately, give a call for revolution & change.


Matt FocklerSo many amazing new ideas in HGIS and working with Historic Maps. Makes me realize how much of a GIS caveman I am.


Korey KleinGreat panel on the future of academic GIS centers"We have to be willing to change the names as GIS is not the umbrella term it was"


Roger KeilHenri Lefebvre once again revolutionizes space: standing room only at session on the French thinker's work!


Michael GouldAt 2pm I will present opportunities to collaborate on global education initiatives! Esri booth 400.


Marcel FortinGeodesy lesson through great historic photos and maps at / by John Cloud


Kirk GoldsberryNick Perdue just gave a great talk on mapping urban population in new ways.


CommonsLab: Attending session on Utilizing Volunteered Geographic Information for Disease Surveillance by Shaun Langley, MSU. Sheraton RM F

nazila:  AAG. - Jobs in Geography - would you hire a geographer? Labeling yrself may hurt. Research the company first - find ways to fit in.

Edu-Tourist:  Inspiring workshop yesterday on Holocaust

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: How to Handle the Afghan Burnt Qu'rans

Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Sometimes I am asked what a cultural adviser/human terrain team member/cultural geographer can do in Afghanistan.  The incident and fallout concerning burnt Qu'rans at the dentition facility in Bagram give a prime example.

The complete apology campaign has only angered Afghans and now the international Muslim community because it only shows America admitting it destroyed the Muslim holy book without giving a reason.  The lack of reason allows anti-American forces to claim that the West is wagging a war against Islam with no rebuttal to challenge the claim.

Instead of this, a cultural geographer would tell the military and political leaders about how Afghans take much more care of their Qu'rans compared to Arabs.  While many Arabs tend to have a place of honor for their Qu'rans, many Afghans will have altars or even special lock safes to store and honor their holy book.  This shows how special the Qu'ran is for Afghans.  It also implies that any Qu'ran destruction in Afghanistan would not be like other Qu'ran incidents in Iraq which cause anger but are quickly forgotten.  The cultural geographer would lastly point out Afghans, who see their country with the myth that it is only Muslim state never conquered and ruled by a non-Muslim power, as people chosen by God to be the practitioners of the truest form of Islam and take their role of defending the faith deadly serious.

The cultural geographer would then recommend that the press affairs office emphasize that it was the prisoners who defaced the Qu'ran by writing messages in it (it was messages between prisoners hidden in the Qu'rans which caused the military commander to order their destruction).  The cultural geographer would further recommend that a council of religious elders from all Afghan ethnic groups be gathered to release a statement on how it was wrong for the Americans to burn the Qu'rans but the book was already defiled by the prisoners.  A country-wide townhall campaign focusing on Pashtuns, the base of the Taliban, and Uzbeks, where the Taliban recruit members from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, should then be launched with copies of the marked pages passed around in the tens of thousands.  The campaign should also emphasize the numerous times the Taliban attacked mosques and imams.

The proposed campaign and its fallout would not make the international nightly news but it would be a huge win in the battle for hearts and minds and would even result in a loss of ideological and then material support for the Taliban.

However, no cultural adviser was available and this is what happened

Friday, February 24, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Seth Dixon on the Internet and Geography Education

Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Dr. Seth Dixon, of @APHumanGeog fame, has placed a handout on his website which basically is a hotlinked version of his speech.  The presentation is on how the internet can aid in geography education.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Geography the Extraordinary


Welcome to the kick-off of the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Our first post is by Isabella Contolini: a proud Coloradoan who has represented her state at the national level of the Geography Bee. 

The extraordinary thing about geography is that some people don’t find geography extraordinary.
Geography knowledge in the United States is pitiful. My dad and I were shocked by this when I did my first geography bee in 4th grade. First of all, you’d think that common sense would tell people it’s pretty important to know about the world! After all, we live in it every day; hear about it on the news, and travel all over for vacations! You’d think that Americans find the nature of the countries around us interesting.

Geography is a relevant part of our lives- just as relevant as math and science! Look at the tags of your clothes. Where are they made? Do you know where those places are? Do you have any idea why your clothes might be made there? Tune into the international news tonight. (BBC is great.) Make a list of all the different places outside the US mentioned. What names do you hear?

Does your house have an atlas? If not, consider purchasing one. Or use the computer if you don’t want to spend any money. Learn something about these places - be it their capital, official language, currency, or even something as simple as what continent it is on. If you see a new place, look it up. Repeating simple acts like this can teach you geography little by little. 

However, geography is not just names of places and cities and memorization, either. Geography is about people and cultures. Geography has to do with the sports you play, the music you listen to, the clothes you wear, the language you speak, what you eat, where you go to school, what kind of car you drive- everything is related to geography!

Here’s an example. What do you do in your free time? Playing sports is one of the most popular pastimes worldwide. Popular American sports include football, basketball, and baseball. But by far the most played, most well-known, most loved sport is soccer. There are tons of different names for it, too. The English call it football (confusing!), the Mexicans fùtbol, the Italians calcio, the Dutch voetbal, the Estonians jalgpall- the list goes on and on.

What are some of your favorite foods? Pizza, tacos, and noodles are all popular in America and very delicious. But none of these foods originated in the United States. Pizza began in Naples, Italy. Tacos are, of course, Mexican. And the Chinese have been making noodles for thousands of years, and they were brought to Europe in the 1200s by Marco Polo. Cheese is presumed to have been discovered by Arabs traveling through the Sahara Desert carrying milk in a bag of animal skin. So food is related to geography, too.

Do you know what you would like to be when you grow up? For most people, that’s a simple question. Ask a kindergartener, and you will get tons of different answers- astronaut, firefighter, teacher, nurse.  But what most people don’t realize is that all of these jobs- and lots more- have to do with geography. Pilots need to know about where they will land, and the weather conditions along their route. Nurses and teachers work with people from many different cultures. They should know some things about these people! Meteorologists share the weather forecast with us every day. They show us that giant map of the US and tell us the names of places all over.

Do you think about helping poor people and solving the world’s problems? Geography has to do with this, too. About half of the world’s population of 7 billion people lives on $2.00 or less a day. That’s approximately 3 ½ billion people- an inconceivable number. Think about what you could buy with $2.00. Would it be enough to live on every day?  How much money do you think you spend on average every day? Take gas, for example. $3.00 a gallon- to fill up a car with a 30-gallon tank is about $90.00. That is an incredibly high number. The amount you spend on gas each week could feed a person in a poor country for 45 days- more than a month! Do you go out to dinner? Most sit-down restaurants charge about $10.00 a plate. Multiply that by your family of 4 or 5, and that is $40.00 or $50.00! Enough to feed a person in a 3rd-world country for a week or more.

These numbers give you a small idea of how most of the world’s population lives. Our 3-times-a-day meals, 2 cars, a large, heated house with furniture and other luxuries- they are not common occurrences. Compared to most countries, the US is extremely wealthy. GDP per capita is the average amount of money a person in each country earns a year. According to the CIA World Factbook, the American (USA) GDP per capita is $48,100.00. However, the average Guatemalan earns about $5,000.000 a year. That is almost ten times less than us. And the average person in the Democratic Republic or the Congo earns $300.00 a year. Many Americans earn than much money in a day!

It is clear that most of the world people aren't nearly as privileged as we are, and by learning geography, we can figure out ways to help them.  The Bible says, “Whatever you did unto to the least of my brothers you did unto Me.” God wants us to help the poor and needy, and when we go to His kingdom someday, that is how we will be judged. Learning geography is the perfect way to start. The world is all around us, and we need to stop ignoring it. There is so much more out there than our safe, wealthy country. The world needs you.  God needs you. He is relying on you to help Him. There is only one question left: Will you?

Isabella Contolini, almost 14. - www.geokid.org

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Dead Cities of Syria

Abandoned settlements, "ghost towns", or ruins.  As there are many words one can use for the wreckage of past human settlement so there are many feelings these ruins can elicit.  I felt a wonder of forgotten past whenever I traveled by the Indian burial mounds near my hometown yet I felt a sadness, a loss, when I saw all the abandoned farmstead on the Great Plains on the way to my grandparents' farm.  A sense of great evil and injustice was the feeling which moved me when I saw villages destroyed by Saddam Hussein.  One of the most unsettling feelings when coming across ruins is when one encounters something that feels out of place on the physical or cultural landscape.  An alien on the landscape can confuse and even upset if one tries to comprehends the massive turmoil between the ruins' inhabitation and today.

The feelings of confusion, loss, sadness were all felt by me when I first learned about the lost cities in northwest Syria.


View Larger Map

In the northwest of Syria there is an area 25 miles by 90 miles (roughly 40 km by 140 km) in which over 700 ruined cities dating from about 500 BC to around AD 700.  These ruins are collective known as the Dead Cities.

Part of one of the dead cities.  From James Gordon of Los Angeles on Flickr.

Many of these ruins have Roman/Byzantine architecture with the ruins of churches still clearly visible.

The ruins of a once great church.  From James Gordon of Los Angeles on Flickr.
These cities thrived on the trade routes which connected Imperial Asia Minor and Constantinople with the Levant, Persia, and Arabia.  The lack of battle damage on these cities offers physical proof that the Islamic invasion itself did not destroy these cities but economics.  The trade routes of the Islamic traveled differently, more along the coasts and to Arabia, than in Roman/Byzantine times.  The Byzantines and other cultural Greeks left these cities for places like Damascus and greater Arabia.  These lively cities quickly died.



Today these ruins are an UNESCO Heritage Site.  Even with this status they are little known and the current conditions

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Meteorite Still Has Impact 75 Million Years Later

Seventy-five million years ago a meteorite slammed into present-day Iowa.  The rock was one and a half miles wide (2.4 km) and created a crater twenty-four miles (38.6 km) wide.  The resulting upheaval resulted in the local geology being a mixture of water, surface rock, and deep crust.

This weird geography is creating present-day problems as the 1,600-some locals of Manson, Iowa are looking for a water source to drill a well to quench their thrust for water for personal, business, and agricultural use.  Normally finding a location for a well in the Midwest would be pretty easy but no one knows where in the crater area one can find a large enough water source or milled-up rocks.

Interestingly, somewhere near the center of the crater is Iowa's only natural source of soft water.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

AAG 2012 Video Contest Winners

The Association of American Geographers has announced the winners of its "Geography Matters" video competition.  I am personally a fan of the University of Buffalo's film on Haiti.  The geography of food one ties the physical geography of a river to wine very well.  The first place film fits much into Yi-Fu Tuan's humanistic geography.

First Place



Second Place



Third Place