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UCGIS 2012 Symposium

Concluding Report

Keynote Speakers:

Michael Goodchild

As a veteran UCGIS member and a strong force in the GIScience field, Goodchild had much to offer about the state of affairs in the GIS community and the position of UCGIS. Goodchild talked widely about the innovations in GIScience – among them he mentioned spatial v. placial thinking, more qualitative mapping methods such as ethnophysiography, and 3D and indoor GIS. Goodchild specifically emphasized the need for UCGIS to position itself on the cutting edge of the GIScience field: to produce ideas and innovations that strongly impact the research and education that is being done in this field. Possible options he outlined to achieve this end is to organize lectures and seminars on cutting edge topics and foster collaborations between emerging organizations or research clusters.

John Wilson

John Wilson strongly pushed the need for GIScience to think of the world spatially. A spatial perspective should pervade through all systems of education and research. Wilson called for spatial literacy in education. Another aspect of the education angle was looking at the Geospatial Technology Competency Model, a sort of certification for students. This new perspective would ultimately translate to better workforce development.

Laxmi Ramasubramanian

Newly instated President, Laxmi Ramasubramanian addressed the meeting in a very positive manner. Starting with outlining the accomplishments of UCGIS over the years, she, too, echoed the need for continued progress and innovation. As a planner, she emphasized the interdisciplinary nature – a unique quality – of UCGIS.  Her plan going forward called for the need for further collaboration and innovation on the part of UCGIS within the organization and outside of it. Her other, main driving point was to formalize the education we have in place by accreditation.

Michael Batty

Michael Batty reviewed his older research on fractal cities and presented newer findings. He talked about their uses in determining urban growth but noted that these were only models and not the hard and fast rule of urban development.

William Huxhold

Bill Huxhold came to GIScience education from a professional background, so he outlined his journey from the professional field to the education sector. He emphasized the need for GIS educators and researchers to strengthen our programs such that students will be prepared for the jobs that are needed by governments, particularly local – county and state – governments. Huxhold called for the streamlining of GIS curricula so that a degree in GIS can have universal meaning in terms of skills and knowledge.

Research Ideaspace

            There were two broad themes that shone through the 5-minute lightning talks in the Research Ideaspace. One was the theme of social justice. Questions of social justice integration, health equity, and even more fundamental: can we even map some phenomena came up. The other large theme was data: data re-use, data manipulation, spatiotemporal data, and ‘big data’ in general. However, these were not mutually exclusive or concretely defined areas of inquiry. From this ideaspace came many different working groups. Particular questions to note were whether it was even possible to align the multiplicity in geospatial ontologies, how to combine different types of data, and how to move away from simply handling ‘big data’ to actually analyzing them.

Education Ideaspace

            The Education Ideaspace was largely concerned with expanding the base of GIScience education to a larger pool of students – particularly undergraduates. Though the topics of program accreditation and the Body of Knowledge were each discussed in two separate presentations, the need to fulfill the rising demand for GIS professionals and make GIScience education engaging, well-rounded, and innovative was definitely felt. From classes mapping lived experiences to designing better geostatistical training, issues concerning professors from a range of fields were raised. This ideaspace, too, yielded a number of interesting working groups.

A note on the working group formation:

            It is evident even from the formation of the working groups that the UCGIS body works in a deliberate and conscious way in order to achieve their goals. There was a serious discussion of how to form working groups: who can propose them? which topics go together? what is the optimal size? These were just a few of the questions that guided this process.

Conference Session 1

            The three postgraduate student presentations in this session were very strong in all aspects: analysis, scale, range, and methodology. From rural to urban, global to local, all three students tackled a variety of issues from different perspectives. Their original research questions were followed by original methodologies and were conscious of potential shortcomings and pitfalls. Jessica DeWitt from West Virginia University examined the soil changes in Southern West Virginia after extensive surface mining. Much of her data were from remote sensing satellite images. Jizhe Xia analyzed massive amounts of internet traffic data from all over the world. Though he came to interesting conclusions, he was still trying to develop a method further compute such large datasets in a more efficient manner. Lastly, Megan Heckert analyzed access to green space in Philadelphia using different statistical methods to deliver an innovative description of what was happening in Philadelphia and social equity.

Conference Session 2: GIScience Education

            This session really covered a broad range of topics and applications with the central theme of education being present in every presentation. Starting with two pedagogical presentations by Thomas Blaschke and Sungsoon (Julie) Hwang. In particular, both presentations called for improvements to GIScience education both at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. While Blaschke highlighted gaps in the education, particularly with regards to communication skills and creativity, Hwang advocated for a new framework of GIScience education, sustainability. She believes that this would encourage students to examine the world and use their GIScience applications in a holistic method rather than a single, narrow analysis.

            Ian Muehlenhaus and Matthew Mulbrandon also called for forward thinking in education and the production of GIScience knowledge. Muehlenhaus posed a number of questions that prodded educators and students alike to think about the education and use of cutting edge technologies such as cartographic APIs and creating practical maps. Mulbrandon talked about his and his sister’s work. They have contributed significantly to economic statistic visualization, most notably since the economic crash. Their creative visualization projects are a testament to practical applications of GIScience after rigorous geography education. Lastly, Lakshman Kalasapudi presented his undergraduate work as an example of undergraduate GIScience education in action.

Conference Session 3

There was a great variety in this session with no obvious connections between the papers. But what lacked in the continuity was made up by the rich heterogeneity of the topics covered. This well-curated session covered topics from equity to methodology to self-inspection. There were a number of different, innovative visualizations that helped convey the messages succinctly. It was a great reminder that while we need to look to the cutting edge practices in our field, covered by Bernhard Jenny and Eunhye Yoo, we need to also need to be introspective and constant evaluate and re-evaluate the work we already did. This will make us a stronger force on the cutting edge of GIScience.

Event Location

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
1515 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.
United States
Phone: 1-202-232-7000

Event Date

29 May 2012 - 11:00pm to 31 May 2012 - 11:00pm