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Category Archives: rant

I have received a lot of input lately…thanks to those who care. I am still enamored with my recent talk title involving the phrase: ‘…the death knell, yes the death knell, for exclusively paper geologic maps‘. But it may have incited some confusion and ire. Please note the intentional insertion of the adjective exclusively. That is a key term here….look it up on Wikipedia (you know, that online resource you dissavow but use all the time).

Maps that are only available in paper form, i.e., Dead Tree Editions (gotta love that one, no?) are of considerably less utility than those that have a viable digital counterpart that can be viewed, analyzed, and widely distributed. Sure, exclusively paper maps are functional, portable, archivable in traditional ways, and fun to hold, but they have a pretty limited application in the 21st century. I stand by that assertion.

That being said, let me enumerate some points:

1. I, yes I, use paper maps in the field. I do not like carrying a computer around at all. Have tried it, don’t like it. Hence my enthusiastic endorsement of new digital pen technology that allows for real ink to be applied to real paper only to later be uploaded into a digital form.

The challenge to the modern cartographer is to create aesthetically acceptable analog / dead tree derivatives of digital maps when needed (which, admittedly, is often).

2. I, yes I, love to put paper maps on the wall of my office and garage.

3. I, yes I, have a degree in Geography and Cartography that dates to the days of the freaking Leroy lettering set and very old school ink pen technology.

4. I, yes I, appreciate that some digital maps are inadequately documented in the domain of metadata, but I would like to stress that I have many paper maps that don’t come with any metadata or metadata-like data.

I could go on, but you are already tired of me. But wait! I have recently found a post on the OpenGeoData blog (a blog about a digital enterprise that could not be carried out with dead trees) that illustrates some truly novel applications for printed maps. I strongly recommend the links below:

Talk about a hard copy format with obvious potential for science:

Here is a map format designed for fools like me who map in the Mojave in the hot season:

Paper maps aren’t dead…they just smell funny…especially if you wipe your brow with one while stumbling through the desert.

Your pal,

Dr. Jerque (thats faux French for Jerk…you knew that, right?)

Digital Geologic Mapping and Integration with the Geoweb: The Death Knell for Exclusively Paper Geologic Maps
The combination of traditional methods of geologic mapping with rapidly developing web-based geospatial applications (‘the geoweb’) and the various collaborative opportunities of web 2.0 have the potential to change the nature, value, and relevance of geologic maps and related field studies. Parallel advances in basic GPS technology, digital photography, and related integrative applications provide practicing geologic mappers with greatly enhanced methods for collecting, visualizing, interpreting, and disseminating geologic information. Even a cursory application of available tools can make field and office work more enriching and efficient; whereas more advanced and systematic applications provide new avenues for collaboration, outreach, and public education. Moreover, they ensure a much broader audience among an immense number of internet savvy end-users with very specific expectations for geospatial data availability. Perplexingly, the geologic community as a whole is not fully exploring this opportunity despite the inevitable revolution in portends. The slow acceptance follows a broad generational trend wherein seasoned professionals are lagging behind geology students and recent graduates in their grasp of and interest in the capabilities of the geoweb and web 2.0 types of applications. Possible explanations for this include: fear of the unknown, fear of learning curve, lack of interest, lack of academic/professional incentive, and (hopefully not) reluctance toward open collaboration. Although some aspects of the expanding geoweb are cloaked in arcane computer code, others are extremely simple to understand and use. A particularly obvious and simple application to enhance any field study is photo geotagging, the digital documentation of the locations of key outcrops, illustrative vistas, and particularly complicated geologic field relations. Viewing geotagged photos in their appropriate context on a virtual globe with high-resolution imagery can be an extremely useful accompaniment to compilation of field mapping efforts. It can also complement published geologic maps by vastly improving their comprehensibility when field photos, and specific notes can be viewed interactively with them. Other useful applications include GPS tracking/documentation of field traverses; invoking multiple geologic layers; 3-D visualizations of terrain and structure; and online collaboration with colleagues via blogs or wikis. Additional steps towards collaborative geologic mapping on the web may also enhance efficient and open sharing of data and ideas. Geologists are well aware that paper geologic maps can convey tremendous amounts of information. Digital geologic maps linked via a virtual globe with field data, diverse imagery, historical photographs, explanatory diagrams, and 3-D models convey a much greater amount of information and can provide a much richer context for comprehension and interpretation. They can also serve as an efficient, entertaining, and potentially compelling mechanism for fostering inspiration in the minds of budding (and aging) geologists.

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Geofroth at AGU 2008

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: geology geotagging)

No, not because I spend so much time hiking in the desert or because I lugged way too much crap down the South Kaibab Trail last month…not those quads. What is killing me is being a victim of mapping 7.5 minute quads. Mapping 7.5 minute quads is a waste of time. It is efficient only in a clerical sense, not in a scientific sense. Mapping on the basis of 7.5 minute quads amounts to mapping in a rectangular frame with boundaries that are (aside from some amazing coincidence) completely arbitrary with respect to geology.

Obviously, the implied goal of mapping 7.5 minute quads is to allow for a systematic framework for eventually mapping a bunch of officially circumscribed rectangles that cover an entire state or region. The key words here are ‘officially’, eventually’, and ‘rectangular’. Morevover, the concept of mapping quads is so deeply mired in the deeply pre-digital history of the USGS and the history of printing that it has become an ultra-anachronism.

I have been foolish enough to map a patchwork series of quadrangles along the lower Colorado River in an attempt to better understand the river’s geologic history. Each time I move into a new quad, I learn more about that history (or more variations on it) that inform previous maps. Why in the hell I didn’t just try to get funding to map the deposits of interest along the corresponding length of river is beyond me. Eight years later, I am still trying to finish some of those maps (sure, I am a perfectionist, but there are other reasons).

My most ambitious mapping project, the Ivanpah Mega-Map (Ivanpaviathan), is a classic example of how mapping quads can (temporarily) wreck your life. In that case, I stupidly proposed to map the entirety of all of the quads that fell even partly into the boundary of the watershed of interest. WTF? What an idiot. That is how mired I was in the Quad Mapping Model (QMM). I paid and paid dearly for that bit of stupidity.

My job involves mapping a lot of quads in Nevada. My agency has a goal of eventually mapping the entire state. Ha! That is not going to happen at 1:24,000 in my or my kids’ (or their kids’) lifetimes. In fact, this is simply not going to happen ever! Deal with it. Pick the areas that really matter (for whatever reason you like) and map them. Don’t worry, you can still circumscribe the area with a quadrilateral that has easily defineable corner coordinates….

Note: I have decided to pepper the blog with a geo-rant every now and then. My first is about my (hopefully horribly misguided) perception that geologists as a group are really missing the boat with Web 2.0 and web-based collaboration.
A colleague recently reminded me of an interesting article published in Scientific American several months back. It describes the great utility of open, web-based collaboration and data sharing for advancing science. The following is a snippet from the article by M. Mitchell Waldrop:
The first generation of World Wide Web capabilities rapidly transformed retailing and information search. More recent attributes such as blogging, tagging and social networking, dubbed Web 2.0, have just as quickly expanded people’s ability not just to consume online information but to publish it, edit it and collaborate about it—forcing such old-line institutions as journalism, marketing and even politicking to adopt whole new ways of thinking and operating.
Science could be next. A small but growing number of researchers (and not just the younger ones) have begun to carry out their work via the wide-open tools of Web 2.0. And although their efforts are still too scattered to be called a movement—yet—their experiences to date suggest that this kind of Web-based “Science 2.0” is not only more collegial than traditional science but considerably more productive.
Take a few minutes (sure, you’re busy…so am I) and read this article in full. After reading it, I felt like some of my efforts in blogging and goading my colleagues to participate (to, alas, fairly little avail) in open and web-based collaboration were vindicated. Are you open to open science, or are you forever married to the old model? I started one research blog, Yeehow Central, in an effort to unite a small, active research group because I know that the concept has great potential in general. All my colleagues have managed to carve out some form of collaboration using email (good gawd!) but few if any are taking it to a higher, more productive level (blogging, real time group collaboration…e.g. check out Campfire…even IM/chat).

Is this not a painfully obvious way to go? I think so. I have devoted a fair amount of time to some very basic blogging at the very real risk of getting zero to hardly partial credit in my annual performance review. Why? Because it just seems so freaking obvious….is it just me and a few other neogeoheads / geogeeks? wtf?

Try something new. Sure you’re way too busy to do something like this, so am I. We are all busy. We are all stuck in various rut or two. That’s life. Is old school science and mapping going to rule your behavior for the rest of your career (or life for that matter)? Drag.