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Visualizations and Mashups in Online News Production

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Visualizations and Mashups in Online News Production

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Many digital technologies are emerging as production and consumption of news shifts to online media. With the growth of citizen journalism and the increased availability and access to information, data, and analytical tools, online news has the potential to become an effective tool in restoring public trust in media. This paper examines the most promising of these developing technologies.

Many digital technologies are emerging as production and consumption of news shifts to online media. With the growth of citizen journalism and the increased availability and access to information, data, and analytical tools, online news has the potential to become an effective tool in restoring public trust in media. This paper examines the most promising of these developing technologies.

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Visualizations and Mashups in Online News Production

  1. 1. VISUALIZATIONS AND MASHUPS IN ONLINE NEWS PRODUCTION by Andy Sternberg A Thesis Presented to the FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree MASTER OF ARTS (ONLINE JOURNALISM) May 2007 Copyright 2007 Andy Sternberg
  2. 2. ii Table of Contents Abstract iii Chapter 1: History 1 Chapter 2: Two Models 4 Chapter 3: GIS Technology — An Explanation 6 Chapter 4: Use of GIS-based Maps in the News 8 Chapter 5: Interactivity, Google Maps, and Mashups 11 Chapter 6: Google Earth, Geotagging, 3-D and Movement 13 Chapter 7: Privacy and Accessibility 15 Chapter 8: Emerging Concepts in Interactive Online Maps 18 Chapter 9: GIS, Maps, and Interactivity in the Future 21 Chapter 10: Conclusion 23 Bibliography 26 Appendices Appendix A — Visual References 30 Appendix B — Tools for Journalists 50
  3. 3. iii Abstract Many digital technologies are emerging as production and consumption of news shift to online media. With the growth of citizen journalism and the increased availability and access to information, data, and analytical tools, online news has the potential to become an effective tool in restoring public trust in media. This paper examines the most promising of these developing technologies.
  4. 4. 1 1. History The physical geography of Earth and its geospatial idiosyncrasies have been debated since long before Columbus set sail to the West and thought he landed in India. Two millennia prior, Aristotle had already proven the spherical shape of the planet to the utter disbelief of society for centuries to come. 1 While a cartographic revolution of sorts took place in the mathematical and theoretical improvements in maps of the 15th and 16th centuries, debates over the physical geography of Earth would continue until the emergence of computer and satellite technology, alongside space travel in the 20th century. Soon after the launch of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik in 1957 first enabled photography from Earth’s orbit, the development of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology began. The evolution of GIS in practice is not clear, according to historians, but British geographer Roger Tomlinson is generally credited with creating the specialized field by beginning development of the Canadian Geographic Information System (CGIS) in 1963 2 . Six years later, Jack and Laura Dangermond founded the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), which since 1981 has produced the industry standard ArcGIS software (initially ARC/INFO) 3 . NASA’s Apollo Program 4 produced many historic moments in U.S. history including Neil Armstrong’s famous broadcast while “walking” on the moon. 1 “Aristotle.” (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 8, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9108312 2 http://www.aag.org/tomlinson/ 3 http://www.esri.com/company/about/history.html 4 http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/history/apollo/
  5. 5. 2 More significant in the revolution of technology and visualization is the vivid photo of the full Earth, taken during the 1969 Apollo 10 mission. This fascinating image burned a new, concrete, and emotional connection to the Earth witnessed from a distance — an isolated and fragile body. Later that year, John McConnell imprinted the image on flags and copyrighted the “Earth Flag.” 5 Months later, the flag was a centerpiece at the inaugural Earth Day and the environmental movement had officially begun. By the 1970s more advanced satellites such as LandSat were put into orbit for mapping purposes and for surveillance in defense of the Cold War. These satellites, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, redefined the field of geography and how maps are made. It is also one reason that satellite-based 3-D images face many obstacles before being embraced by the public. Considering the original sources of the technology, many societies have equated imaging satellites as instruments used for surveillance. After the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 6 , in which the Internet became part of the public trust, users grew to demand and expect access to data that had previously only been available to government institutions, such as the U.S. Defense Department. 5 McConnell, John. "The History of the Earth Flag," originally printed in The Flag Bulletin March/April 1982. Accessed March 10, 2007 via http://members.aol.com/TrusteeOne/essay27.html 6 Berners-Lee, Tim. “Longer Bio” accessed March 3, 2007 via http://www.w3.org/People/Berners- Lee/Longer.html
  6. 6. 3 Software and applications could now be distributed via the Internet, and in part because the nature of the World Wide Web as envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee was an open, noncommercial resource for all, a large percentage of these programs were open-source — available at no cost and complete with the code structure for anyone to manipulate or improve upon. As the source and uses of space technologies have been taken over by media corporations and open-source enthusiasts, satellite imagery is increasingly seen as a public commodity. GIS visualization is increasingly seen as a trustworthy and benign source of visual information. However, for privacy and national security interests, the extent to which satellite imagery is available is determined by the federal government. In the United States it is the National Center for Geospatial Intelligence Standards (NCGIS) is the coordinating organization within the National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency (NGA) 7 and the National Mapping Program 8 . In the UK and European Union, open access movments such as OpenGeoData 9 continue to push for the availability of these files for free. 7 http://www.nga.mil/portal/site/nga01/?epi_menuItemID=178acf72d127b72edcc133449a27a759&epi_ menuID=2a4a41d1917b685cdcc133449a27a759&epi_baseMenuID=b7a9ba3525aee259dcc133449a2 7a759 8 http://nationalmap.gov/gio/standards/ 9 http://okfn.org/wiki/OpenGeoData accessed March 25, 2007
  7. 7. 4 2. Two Models Current trends in map usage for online news production can be delineated by two distinct models: the “cinematic” and the “interactive.” Visual maps as cinematic devices for online storytelling and news reporting in the form of static graphics have grown to encompass a range of preprogrammed models often presented with the help of motion-enhanced multimedia programs such as Macromedia Flash. While cinematic content can be highly advanced, including video, 3-D presentations, and other complex technologies, it is essentially created and produced by a graphics specialist. Most importantly, the cinematic model does not allow for in-depth interactivity (beyond basic start/stop navigation), ensuring that the content is delivered as a controlled and immutable production. The “interactive” model has grown rapidly alongside the emergence of widespread broadband Internet access, further enabled by a growing pool of user- generated content and a wealth information, resources, and applications provided and shared by a strong open-source community. In “interactive” models, an application, often constructed by a graphics specialist, is developed for the interactive use, interpretation, and enjoyment of the audience. The user is provided with the tools and data or information with which to draw from and to open the possibilities for creation and exploration. This becomes a participatory quest for information and knowledge. Both “interactive” and “cinematic” map presentations are valuable tools in online news gathering, analysis, and reporting. But the implementation of
  8. 8. 5 interactivity in online content signals the news media’s acknowledgment of a fast- developing “hands-on” approach to the future of digital technology. The BBC and other British media outlets have led the charge in adapting to and encouraging increased user interactivity, online comments, and rich multimedia content development on Internet news sites. The U.S. media is fast catching up, however. CNN, for example, after exposing many viewers to the Keyhole satellite imagery that would become integral to Google Earth, has since relied on citizen-generated photos and video of the July 2005 London Underground bombings and the 2006 conflict in Lebanon and northern Israel. In August 2006, CNN launched Exchange 10 , to showcase user-generated news footage and commentary. Yahoo! followed suit in December, partnering with Reuters to form YouWitness News 11 , and in February 2007 the Associated Press announced a partnership with the user- generated news site NowPublic 12 . Furthermore, growing communities of Internet users are encouraging the geocoding — the process of assigning geographic identifiers such as latitude and longitude or ZIP codes 13 — to data, text, and media,to enable the aggregation and visualization of localized online content. 10 http://www.cnn.com/exchange/ 11 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/04/technology/04yahoo.html 12 http://www.ap.org/pages/about/pressreleases/pr_020907a.html 13 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocoding
  9. 9. 6 3. GIS Technology — An Explanation As computers became more advanced in the 1990s and could store more digital information while processing data faster, the functionality of converting spatial data into visual representation for public use became a reality. In 1988, the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) was established in the United States, the first GIS Conference was held, and the U.S. Census Bureau for the first time released its TIGER (Topographically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) digital data product. The era of GAS in the newsroom had begun, and GIS has since redefined public interest newspaper reporting as an extension of computer-assisted reporting (CAR). As GIS provides the technology to extend database research and analysis into the visual sphere, it has become the premier tool for journalists who practice CAR. This technique encompasses “anything that uses computers to aid in the news- gathering process” (Garrison, 3). Before the emergence of the modern-day Web browser in 1995 (The Netscape Navigator 1.0 Beta was released in October 1994 14 ), CAR was primarily limited to database analysis using word processing spreadsheet applications such as Microsoft Excel. The U.S. Census, for example, can be data- sorted in different ways in an Excel spreadsheet. It can be downloaded and saved as a database (DBF4) file, and imported into GIS software, such as ESRI’s ArcGIS. It is then possible to examine U.S. Census information laid out visually on a map. 14 http://wp.netscape.com/newsref/pr/newsrelease1.html
  10. 10. 7 The layering component in GIS software offers another dynamic to U.S. Census studies by making it possible to create multiple layers of information on one map. ArcGIS uses “shapefiles” (.shp) that contain a visual image and a data table. Shapefiles are comprised of at least three required files: .shp (the visual image); .dbf (the data table), and .shx (the index file). Other file types that are commonly incorporated are: .prj (projection definition); .xml (meta data description); .iag (geocoding index); and graphic info (Hutchinson, 6-7). After building the basic layers of a map, by importing the TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) files 15 constituting the streets, counties, cities, and bodies of water for the state or region involved, database (DBF4) files can be “joined” as additional layers. For example, it is possible to add multiple databases to these files. To illustrate the relative ease of use and flexibility of this software, let me give a brief demonstration: If I were to write an article on the location of senior community centers in Los Angeles County in relation to where citizens over the age of 65 reside, I would first download census data from the U.S. Census Bureau 16 . I would save the census tract for L.A. County population sorted by age and open it in Microsoft Excel. I would then delete the columns containing men and women under 65 and then would add a column to compute the percentages of the remaining age 15 http://arcdata.esri.com/data/tiger2000/tiger_download.cfm 16 http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/DownloadDatasetServlet?_lang=en
  11. 11. 8 17 groups. I could also download the same information as thematic map files. I can convert information available on Los Angeles County Senior Citizen Center Web site 18 into a database (DBF4) file using Excel and import that into ArcGIS as well. By setting four gradations (by percent of total), I can color code the L.A. County municipalities based on concentration of seniors. I can identify the location of the senior centers with large dots and the map would detail the story — senior community centers tend to be located far from areas with concentrated populations of seniors. Additional geospatial data and information are available at the U.S. Geospatial One-Stop. 19 4. Use of GIS-based Maps in the News Flat, two-dimensional graphic maps have been integrated into television and print news for decades. Since the growth of Internet-based news Web sites in the 1990s, the use of three-dimensional satellite images and enhanced interactive maps has added value to many sites. But the cost of production and of GIS applications had often been prohibitive; the technical knowledge and time necessary to produce integrated maps required skilled professionals, time, and editors with the vision to commit resources to them. 17 http://factfinder.census.gov/jsp/saff/SAFFInfo.jsp?_pageId=thematicmaps&_submenuId=maps_1&ge o_id=01000US 18 http://phps.dhs.co.la.ca.us/docs/SeniorCitizenCenters_1.doc 19 http://gos2.geodata.gov/wps/portal/gos
  12. 12. 9 With the rich dynamic capabilities of ArcGIS and other, more simplified GIS applications, journalists can now produce provocative, eye-grabbing, and effective exposés and informative pieces using public data made available by the U.S. Census Bureau and other resources. While the hand of a graphics artist is always welcome in the newsroom, much of this technology is now within the capabilities of a tech-savvy reporter. The GIS graphics now become an important and relatively inexpensive and rapid way for a news organization to enhance and complement text, whether on a Web site or in print. For example, the rich use of color gradation and 3-D elements in the San Jose Mercury News’ 1998 coverage of housing development in landslide areas of Santa Cruz County not only educated readers to the local topography and geography, but also revealed years of controversial land use and development (Herzog, 79-90). The Santa Cruz study, like others described in David Herzog’s 2003 book Mapping the News, would have involved a newspaper’s CAR editor or otherwise IT-specialized employee. But Herzog’s succession of examples of GIS projects in various newsrooms makes it clear that GIS and satellite mapping are still in their infancy. In each of Herzog’s examples, we discover that the researchers and reporters involved usually learned more about GIS applications “on the fly” as they assembled their news projects.
  13. 13. 10 GIS is a very effective tool in enhancing political stories. In Mapping the News, Herzog summarized the Washington Post’s excellent GIS work in the aftermath of the 2000 election, which confirmed that the majority of discarded votes in the decisive state of Florida were in districts containing higher populations of blacks. Following the 2004 election, Rolling Stone supplemented environmental lawyer and Air America radio host Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s four-month investigation into possible election fraud with a Web-only collection of additional resources and GIS-enriched graphics 20 . The New York Times created a Google map documenting three years of its “36 Hours” columns. Clicking on a placemark in each American city leads to an archived column detailing a weekend itinerary 21 . This seamless blend of image and text was created by Faneuil Media 22 , founded by Rick Burnes, a New York Times journalist who recently quit writing for the paper to focus on “fusing mapping and data” technologies for online publication (Burnes). In February 2007, Faneuil Media launched its own tool, Atlas, a Web application that enables Internet users at all levels to create maps. Other new open-source Web applications enable other companies to create visualizations. Cartifact specializes in commercial real estate. Their primary clients are Wall Street types who want detailed maps of commercial real estate and what’s 20 http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10463875/was_the_2004_election_stolen_sources_and_com mentary 21 http://www.nytimes.com/gst/travel/36hours.html 22 http://faneuilmedia.com/
  14. 14. 11 around them for spatial consistency, according to lead developer Eric Richardson. Cartifact’s contributions to online journalism include a detailed map of Downtown News Development Map 23 , and the Downtown LA Homeless map 24 , created using open-source tools including VTBuilder 25 and Surfit 26 . Although maps can be manipulated in many ways, they are theoretically unbiased representations of geographic reality. Many GIS professionals anticipate media interest and, for example, follow news feeds on floods around the world; researchers then go out and scour for images to go with those stories 27 (Lauriault). The data and images are then sold to the media to put into context. The imagery can play an important role in molding public discourse. When Thomas Friedman published the 2005 bestseller The World is Flat, Richard Florida was quick to criticize Friedman’s analysis, using 3-D maps to demonstrate that while globalization has changed the socioeconomic face of the world, it has hardly “leveled” the playing field, as Friedman argued (Florida — see Appendix 1). 5. Interactivity, Google Maps, and Mashups During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, CNN began using Keyhole, Inc.’s 3-D satellite mapping technology along with Digital Globe’s image archive to provide detailed graphics of locations in Iraq and wow viewers with the sensation that they were flying over and into, for example, Baghdad’s Green Zone. 23 http://cartifact.com/dtnews/ 24 http://homeless.cartifact.com/ 25 http://www.vterrain.org/Doc/VTBuilder/overview.html 26 http://surfit.sourceforge.net/ 27 http://www.dartmouth.edu/~floods/archiveatlas/index.htm
  15. 15. 12 Use of Keyhole’s software was costly, yet the company gained a following from the exposure it received from the “provided by keyhole.com” attribution stamped on each TV or Internet graphic. In 2005, when Google purchased Keyhole and incorporated its satellite database into Google Maps, a phenomenon was born and satellite mapping technologies, once referred to simply as GIS, became user-friendly and affordable and took on a new, popularizing role for an eager and growing audience. Since the 2005 public rollout of Google Maps and then Google Earth desktop geo-viewer, or virtual globe 28 , dramatic changes have occurred in GIS. It is now as easy to create a custom map online as it is to open an online bank account. This is due to a confluence of developments, such as the rapid mass-marketization of Google’s brand and the adoption of similar technologies by Microsoft and Yahoo!. This occurred in concert with prolific innovation by hobbyists and news professionals utilizing Application Programming Interfaces (API). An API is the interface that a computer, data library, or application provides in order to enable the sharing or exchange of data with other computer programs 29 . This, in turn, has fit well with the open-source spirit of sharing in the Internet community. The “mashup” — a term originally used to describe the phenomenon in popular music of combining aspects of two different songs to create a dance floor hit — is a Web-based combination of data or content from different sources to create a new service or application. (The June 2006 Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: 28 SPACE definition: http://www.csiss.org/SPACE/resources/virtual-globes.php 29 TechWeb Encyclopedia: http://www.techweb.com/encyclopedia/defineterm.jhtml?term=api
  16. 16. 13 30 “a mixture or fusion of disparate elements”). The expanding pool of mashups — at first, geocoded data and resources and applications to implement into Google Maps — and more recently, Google Earth Network Links made available at the Google Earth Community bulletin board 31 (geocoded enhancements, placemarks, and plug-ins, generally marked with the extension .kml or .kmz), has led to the creation and development of abundant mashup graphics, in print and online. More recently, Internet developer Adrian Holovaty, who became an overnight legend with his mashup of Chicago crime histories in a Google Map 32 and is now the director of editorial innovations for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, has generated comprehensive and highly sortable databases of Congressional voting patterns 33 . 6. Google Earth, Geotagging, 3-D and Movement Of the 3-D mapping and virtual globe applications released in recent years, Google Earth is the most advanced and most popular (as of June 2006, at least 30,000 developers use the Google API, and there have been over 100 million downloads of the Google Earth desktop application, according to John Hanke, Google Earth and Maps product director 34 ). While the common user downloads for the entertainment of being able to zoom in to bird's-eye satellite views of his or her house and neighborhood from mere meters above, this often entices viewers to investigate 30 http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50291914 31 http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/ubbthreads.php/Cat/0 32 http://chicagocrime.org 33 http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/ 34 http://news.com.com/Google+Earth+zooms+in/2100-1032_3-6082960.html
  17. 17. 14 new perspectives. Many casual users become engaged with a technology that enables different angles and views of -3D city- and landscapes and the ability to “fly around” the virtual world. As the Internet thrives as an archive, it also offers many Google Earth users an advantage by bookmarking — or placemarking — events, sites, and photos with geospatial encoding for others to access and utilize on their computers. In fact, over 1,000 customized datasets and applications have been spawned and launched into the public domain, as aggregated by ProgrammableWeb. 35 More applications are launching that enable the simple geo-coding of data, including text, images and video using the industry standard Geographic Mapping Language (GML) 36 , often seen as “KML” or Keyhole Markup Language, referring to the Keyhole, Inc. application that became Google Earth. This application is interoperably readable by Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, Yahoo! Maps, and other Web client mapping applications. GeoRSS 37 converts standard location coordinates into code for maps in the news, and this code is archived at Web sites such as MetaCarta 38 . MetaCarta’s geo-text search and geotagging products have led to projects including GutenKarte, which analyze words in books made available by Project Gutenberg to map out the places in a story -- for example, Tolstoy’s War and Peace 39 . 35 http://programmableweb.com/tag/mapping 36 http://www.opengeospatial.org/groups/?iid=31 37 http://www.georss.org/ 38 http://metacarta.com/ 39 http://gutenkarte.org/map/2600
  18. 18. 15 Immersive animation and 3-D rendering are becoming increasingly popular online. While massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) often encourage not only 3-D character interaction and manipulation, but movement as well, Second Life 40 is one open-ended, 3-D virtual world that has become both its own global micro-economy and an online conglomerate of islands between which users can “fly.” The BBC purchased an island in Second Life in Ma, 2006 41 , to offer hundreds of people the opportunity to experience a virtual simulcast of the One Big Weekend event (see screenshots 42 ). Also in May 2006, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy hosted hundreds on a multimedia-rich island in Second Life for its Public Diplomacy in Virtual Worlds 43 Awards presentation (see screenshots 44 ). Online photo storage sites Zoomr 45 and Flickr 46 encourage users to geotag photos, and several applications are available to “fly over” photos based on their geocoded information in Google Earth. 7. Privacy and Accessibility As GIS becomes a mainstream tool of news publications, including broadcast and online news sites, and by extension, their mass audiences, considerable issues of efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility arise — as well as privacy and ethics regarding visual integrity. 40 http://secondlife.com/ 41 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4766755.stm 42 http://www.flickr.com/photos/52327305@N00/sets/72057594143177844/ 43 http://uscpublicdiplomacy.com/index.php/projects/mmog 44 http://uscpublicdiplomacy.com/index.php/events/events_detail/1686/#skip 45 http://beta.zooomr.com/home 46 http://flickr.com/
  19. 19. 16 Not unlike humans, computers have their flaws, and since GIS began rapidly expanding into the mainstream follow,ing the 2005 release of new, free virtual globe applications such Google Earth, the sensitivity of information made available — along with the ability of maps to “lie” — has become a growing concern. For national security reasons, no government allows public use of real-time high-definition satellite imagery. But even use of archived images, such as those now available for free on Google Earth, spark controversy as they can expose secret military installations, residences of public officials and arguably impinge upon the right to privacy. The Cryptome Web site 47 is home to an archive of controversial and banned documents and images. Since 1996, Cryptome has collected 35,000 files, including The Eyeball Series 48 , a large index of detailed bird's-eye satellite maps and images of international military installations, missile launch sites, and residences of world leaders. Cryptome welcomes documents for publication that are prohibited by governments worldwide, in particular material on freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and secret governance — open, secret and classified documents — but not limited to those. 49 These detailed satellite maps reveal the private residences of, for example, Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and President George W. Bush’s Cr Texas, ranch property, as well as international sites of significance such as North Korea’s July 2006 missile test launch site and Guantanamo Bay. 47 http://www.cryptome.org 48 http://www.eyeball-series.org/ 49 http://cryptome.org. Retrieved August 8, 2006.
  20. 20. 17 Governments worldwide have expressed concern about Google Earth regarding privacy and national security issues. In the immediate aftermath of the August 2005 landfall of Hurricane Katrina, a collaboration of scientists teamed with Google to form Global Connection and pooled resources to provide near real-time aerial and satellite images of New Orleans that could be incorporated into Google Earth and Maps. 50 But that October, after a devastating earthquake struck Kashmir, relief organizations were denied access to high-resolution satellite images in the name of national security (Butler, 2005). In 2005, after Taiwan complained about being referred to as a province of China in Google Earth, the Chinese media responded with rumors of a possible boycott of Google’s China service 51 . Since 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Working Group of the U.S. Federal Data Graphic Committee has proposed and repeatedly revised guidelines for the distribution and identification of geospatial data sets containing potentially sensitive information (Lesk). The committee’s most recent “DHS Geospatial Data Model,” published in May 2006, is over 400 pages in length. 52 While the U.S. government makes most geospatial information publicly available, European national mapping agencies have historically prohibited or highly regulated access and licensing of geodata. 53 50 http://earth.google.com/katrina.html 51 http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2005/10/04/2003274363 52 http://www.fgdc.gov/participation/working-groups-subcommittees/hswg/subgroups/info-content- sg/documents/DHS-GDM-v1.1.pdf 53 http://okfn.org/geo/manifesto.php
  21. 21. 18 Where Americans have open access to a glut of government-provided geospatial data and satellite imagery, GIS and information professionals in the European Union are battling for public access and open-sourcing of such crucial elements to the development and proliferation of the information infrastructure. “The potential for open-source GIS is amazing,” according to Open Source Geospatial Foundation Director Jo Walsh, “but there’s a gaping disparity in different countries regarding geodata in the public domain” (Walsh). To this end, Walsh and others have proposed a “Spatial Data Infrastructure” that calls for open sharing of government-collected geodata in a “standard, common format.” 54 8. Emerging Concepts in Interactive Online Maps In recent years, newspapers have accounted for a loss of revenue from classified advertising to online listing services such as craigslist.org, eBay, and online Realtors. But it is becoming clear to some newspapers that the tools are in place — provided they have the necessary data — for them to retain their position at the top of the classified industry. Several newspaper Web sites have begun implementing Google- maps technology into both their classified functions and elsewhere. But their initial efforts have been largely tentative and flawed. 54 http://space.frot.org/docs/why_sdi.html
  22. 22. 19 While special-edition, topic-specific interactive maps such as the New York Times’ (Appendix A) are the most successful and consistent, too many online news maps are one-off Macromedia Flash productions in which the high-tech aesthetics outweigh the quality and accuracy of the information presented (Lauriault). Efforts by some news organizations show great promise. As dynamic HTML has become standard and the speed of computer processors and broadband connections allows for the quick downloading of information, many newspaper sites are incorporating rollover content — which displays after the user-controlled mouse’s arrow or cursor rolls over an area of content — into map placemarks, images, and even text. In April 2006, The Washington Post launched an online version of its free Express tabloid with a focus on classified ads and hyper-local search. ReadExpress.com features a “MetroLinks” guide, encouraging the user to search for hotels, events, news, and restaurants by clicking on a Metro stop and also highlights blog postings from the area 55 . Bowling Green’s Kentucky Daily News uses a “mashup” of Google Maps and Yahoo!’s geo-coding to provide an enhanced, interactive map of yard sales, updated every Thursday 56 . The Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Daily News Journal uses a search engine powered by homefinder.com to allow its users to map out their search of area homes for sale by location, price, and number of bathrooms. 57 55 http://readexpress.com/ 56 http://www.bgdailynews.com/yardsale/ 57 http://www.homefinder.com/dnj/index_map.jhtml
  23. 23. 20 After selecting from a detailed list of available houses, users can even prioritize their selections to produce customized directions. Satellite imagery and interactive maps are redefining how the housing and real estate market is perceived and presented. Zillow.com, launched in February 2006 and powered by Microsoft Virtual Earth mapping technology, offers a free model enabling users to not only visually plot real estate of differing valuations on a map, but also to conduct 3-D interactive tours of different properties. 58 The Beta site is approaching its goal of enabling buyers, sellers, and owners to access free valuations of nearly every property in the United States and offers color-coded “heat maps” of neighborhood values in 17 cities. In response to popular interest and in the spirit of open-source and “the long tail,” in late July 2006, Zillow promised to allow for the broad incorporation of its data on other Web applications through the use of an Open API. 59 Similar mapping technology, combined with location-based advertising, has a promising future in the online news medium. As long as the data exists, it can be mashed up in Google Maps, just as HousingMaps produces a visualization of listings on Craigslist 60 . With the help of the multitude of APIs and Web-based applications powered by advanced Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth technology, the GIS map of L.A. County Senior Community Centers could be easily replicated without requiring ArcGIS or other professional-grade GIS software. 58 http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/266480_zillow13.html 59 http://www.zillowblog.com/zillow_blog/2006/07/zillows_open_ap.html 60 http://www.housingmaps.com/
  24. 24. 21 An Excel or text file of community centers can be imported, or manually entered and instantly geocoded using free programs such as Batch Geocode. 61 The saved geocoded data can then be mapped, or plotted out and designed using free online make-your-own mashup applications such as Platial 62 or Mapbuilder 63 . 9. GIS, Maps, and Interactivity in the Future At this point in its development, GIS and mapping technology gets a mixed reception from media analysts. Mike Liebhold, a senior researcher at the Institute for the Future, sees the general public as lukewarm or still reluctant to embrace interactive multimedia maps in online news. “We are just on the cusp of development of some great new mapping tools that hold great promise for geo news blogging and geo journalism” (Liebhold). Investigation into GIS technology supports this view. However, considering the today’s youth’s growing comfort with emerging technology, it is possible that many of the finest educational tools in the future, for kindergartners through adults, will be rendered with the help of GIS research. For example, imagine learning about climate change using a three-dimensional globe with color-coded, historically accurate data projected onto it. In the near future, elementary schools may have large interactive globes, or even flat plasma maps that translate historical data and geological evolution theories into visual representations. 61 http://www.batchgeocode.com/ 62 http://www.housingmaps.com/ 63 http://www.mapbuilder.net/
  25. 25. 22 Plot the known existence of Homo sapiens 5,000 years ago on a map of the world consistent with the geography of the era. Watch carbon content in the atmosphere rise at the start of agriculture, the Industrial Revolution, and the growth of the economies of China and India. Mash that up with historical temperature records. And so on, unleashing the imagination of students to create their own images based on satellite maps and possibly real-time data. Most importantly, the technology gives students control of future scenarios. Assume Antarctica ice melts in the future. Assume it doesn’t. What does the world look like according to each scenario? What should it look like? Even watch the world’s weather over the course of the past 30 days on a spinning globe, over the course of 60 seconds. Then, use the interactive model to manipulate world climate patterns and see how they affect today’s weather or the weather 20 years from now. I can attest to the breakthrough era of the early 1980s, when, as a young student, the Tandy/RadioShack TRS-80 computers were left to rot and suddenly, the brilliant map/geography-based game “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego,” became the coolest game to play in the Apple IIe-filled computer lab. As kids and young adults continue to spend more and more time on a variety of “connected” media, as opposed to in front of the TV, the prospect for visual and interactive reporting, teaching, and learning is blossoming. Healthy competition between free virtual globes such as Google Earth and complete GIS desktop applications such as ESRI (which retails for $1,400) is accelerating the capabilities and accessibility of geospatial map production for news
  26. 26. 23 as well as the possibilities in GIS research and education. The concept of a “digital Earth” announced in 1998 by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore envisioned the virtual use of “the Earth itself as an organizing metaphor for digital information. 64 ” Twenty-five years ago, the personal computer democratized computing, and 10 years ago the Web browser liberated the Internet. “So systems like Google Earth will democratize GIS,” suggests Michael Goodchild, GIS expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara (Butler, 2006). 10. Conclusion With the widespread penetration of broadband technology — and free mainstream software such as the Adobe Flash player 65 — the public is not interested in simply a graphical rendering of an Excel (or Google) spreadsheet on a map. The public wants to see it in motion. Better yet, the audience wants to control its possibilities. Furthermore, as broadband, high-speed Internet access grows worldwide and broadband speeds multiply, the audience reach for interactive, highly dynamic multimedia presentations will increase exponentially. No fewer than 42 percent of Americans have high-speed Internet access at home and nearly 50 million Americans have created their own content on the Internet, according to the 2006 Technology and Media Use Study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. 66 64 http://www.digitalearth.gov/VP19980131.html 65 http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/ 66 http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Broadband_trends2006.pdf
  27. 27. 24 While the public has grown to trust the media and the government less and less, news organizations can build links to their audiences by making it easier for anyone to mash up their own GIS projects given the tools and information. Therefore, the role of online journalists may be not so much to provide answers as to offer the news audience the tools and direction to reach multiple conclusions. The infusion of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) into many mobile phones and automobile dashboards caters to an increasing dependence on automated real-time maps. For some occupations, such as taxi drivers, these devices have become essential to their work and at increasingly reasonable prices. New applications such as Mapbuilder, OpenLayers, Atlas, and Platial make it simple for users of handheld or portable devices to plug in data or upload databases and create an enhanced map using available geospatial data and mapping applications and technology. In August 2006, Sony released a small GPS device that attaches to a digital camera and records the exact geo-location of every photo, allowing the photos to be immediately mapped upon uploading (Sony). Photo-sharing and storage Web sites, such as Flickr and Zoomr, by tapping into the open source Yahoo! Maps developer kit 67 , Google Maps’ API tools developer kits 68 , or using mashup Web sites such as Mappr 69 , are influencing the popularity of photo-geotagging and visualization on a Virtual Earth interface such as Google Earth. 67 http://developer.yahoo.com/maps/ 68 http://www.google.com/apis/maps/ 69 http://www.mappr.com/
  28. 28. 25 While data is constantly amassing on the Internet, it’s not merely the value of mapping visualization that increases, but for the online journalist and consumer, what also increases is simply the access to knowledge, data, and the increasing simplicity with which various data sets can be examined. “Satellite imagery is just another set of data like campaign finance data or legislative data,” said Faneuil Media founder Rick Burnes, insinuating that 3-D visualizations and interactive mapping imagery are only one small part of a larger information revolution. At the same time, journalists and media organizations in general have been slow to pick up on new technologies, according to Adrian Holovaty, editor of editorial innovations at the Washington Post. Essentially there may never be one without the other. “…[T]here should be human edited account of what’s happening in the world and then a more granular method of browsing the raw information — it should be hand in hand,” says Holovaty. “Technology is now making it easier to do this with searchable databases, interactive maps, news games or exercises, vlogs, podcasts, photo galleries and easy to use content management systems,” says Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland (Schaffer). As citizen journalism continues to advance considerably in terms of both mainstream acceptance and production, especially with regard to multimedia content, the increase in interactivity involving mapping is sure to follow.
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  30. 30. 27 Globescan. “BBC Poll: Trust in Media — Countries.” Accessed August 6, 2006 via http://www.globescan.com/news_archives/bbcreut_country.html Herzog, David. Mapping the News, ESRI Press, Redlands, CA 2003. Holovaty, Adrian, editor of editorial innovations, Washington Post.Newsweek Interactive, via telephone, March 2007. Hutchinson, Scott. Inside ArcView 8.3. Delmark Learning / Thomson, Clifton Park, NY, 2004. Horrigan, John. “Reports: Media & Technology Use — Home Broadband Adoption 2006,” Pew Internet & American Life Project May 28, 2006. Accessed June 2, 2006 via http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Broadband_trends2006.pdf Kaye, Katie, “New Washington Post Local Classifieds Site to Launch Today,” Clickz, April 24, 2006. Accessed July 31 via http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3601196 Lasica, J.D. “Tribune Interactive.” Online Journalism Review. April 11, 2002. Accessed August 1 via http://www.ojr.org/ojr/lasica/1018588213.php Lauriault, Tracey L.Interview exchange via e-mail. Project manager, Cybercartography and the New Economy Project Carleton U., Canada. Via e-mail, August 4, 2006 tlauriau@magma.ca Lesk, Michael, et al. “Acting Responsibly With Geospatial Data.” IEEE Security and Privacy, November/December 2005, pp. 77-80. Accessed August 2006 via http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/iel5/8013/33104/01556542.pdf Liebhold, Mike. Senior Researcher Institute for the Future. Via e-mail, August 5, 2006, mnl@well.com Lindh, Mat and Gunnar Misund. “Annotating Mobile Multimedia Messages With Spaciotemporal Information,” (Faculty of Computer Science, Østfold University College, Halden Norway 2005). The Media Center @ American Press Institute (press release). “Trust in Media.” Accessed August 6, 2006 via http://www.mediacenter.org/pages/mc/trust_in_media/ Monmonier, Mark. How to Lie With Maps, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1996.
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  32. 32. 29 Tamman, Maurice. Phone interview, August 3, 2006. (director of Sarasota Herald- Tribune multimedia). maurice.tamman@heraldtribune.com Urban Simulation Team, UCLA. “Virtual Los Angeles, Downtown.” Accessed August 7, 2006 via http://www.ust.ucla.edu/ustweb/PDFs/USTprojects.PDF Walsh, Jo. “Open Geodata, Free Software and Civic Information.” http://space.frot.org/talks/soc_cartog_accomp.html Sept-Oct 2005 Walsh, Jo., author, Mapping Hacks , via e-mail, July-August 2006, jo@frot.org Weber, Jeremy. “Online maps: New technology helps papers better serve their readers,” Inland Press, May 22, 2006. http://www.inlandpress.org/Main.asp?SectionID=60&SubSectionID=232&ArticleID =1128 Williams, Carol J. LA Times Correspondent. via e-mail, July 11, 2006. Carol.Williams@latimes.com Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office. “GIS History.” May 2001, accessed August 2, 2006 via http://www.geography.wisc.edu/sco/gis/history.html Wise, Stephen. GIS Basics. Taylor & Francis, New York, 2002.
  33. 33. 30 Appendix A — Visual References Maps make up 43% of the 1,746 mashups indexed at ProgrammableWeb.com There are 404 APIs indexed at ProgrammableWeb but GoogleMaps API is used in 50% of all mashups.
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  47. 47. 44 Boston.com Mashup Guide to Red Sox Spring Training in Fort Myers, FL. By Faneuil Media.
  48. 48. 45 Cartifact.com’s Downtown Los Angeles Homeless visualization. Heat map of the homeless population based on data gathered biweekly.
  49. 49. 46
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  53. 53. 50 Appendix B — Tools for Journalists DATA Libre Maps — Free Maps and GIS Data repository: http://libre.redjar.org/maps/ U.S. Census Bureau — Cartographic Boundary Files: http://www.census.gov/geo/www/cob/bdy_files.html Open Source GIS — Detailed collection of and guide to GIS resources: http://opensourcegis.org/ Digital Globe Image Archive: http://www.digitalglobe.com/index.php GCensus: http://gecensus.stanford.edu/gcensus/index.html Geography Network: http://www.geographynetwork.com GeoData — Geography data and embedded GIS software from government agency records: http://geodata.gov MapDex — Search Geographic Data: http://www.mapdex.org/search/ California Spatial Information Library (CASIL): http://gis.ca.gov/BrowseCatalog.epl Southern California GIS-Local Government Users Group: http://www.socalgis.org 2004 Home Mortgage Discovery Act: http://www.ffiec.gov/hmda/hmdaproducts.htm Public Use MicroSample Data: http://www.census.gov/mp/www/Tempcat/PUMS.html Google Gapminder: http://tools.google.com/gapminder/ Neighboroo: mashup tool for real estate, marketing and census visualizations - http://neighboroo.com/
  54. 54. 51 ESRI: Industry leader in desktop GIS, maker of ArcGIS MapInfo: Second in Market Caliper: Makes Maptitude — a low cost GIS GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System): Free open-source GIS. GEO-VIEWERS Google Earth: http://earth.google.com NASA WorldWind: http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov/ SINTEF Virtual Globe: http://globe.sintef.no/ Virtual Globes Directory: http://www.virtualglobes.org/ MAP-BUILDING / MASHUP APPS ShowMeWhere — Easily create Google Maps: http://showmewhere.net/gmap/index.php Platial.com — mashups made easy: http://www.platial.com/splash Mapbuilder.net — custom maps made easy: http://mapbuilder.net Atlas — by Faneuil Media: http://fmatlas.com/atlas2/jsp/atlas.jsp OpenLayers: http://openlayers.org/ ManyEyes: Collaborative visualizations and mashups by IBM Labs: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/app GIS RESOURCES / DIRECTORIES Directions Mag — The Worldwide Source for Geospatial Technology: http://www.directionsmag.com/
  55. 55. 52 Programmable Web — Mashup and API repository, database: http://www.programmableweb.com/ The Map Room Open Source GIS Guide: http://www.mcwetboy.net/maproom/2005/09/open_source_gis_guide.phtml OgleEarth Links List — for conversion, geotracking, google earth: http://www.ogleearth.com/links.html FREEGIS.org — http://freegis.org TOOLS / HACKS / HOW TO Google Earth Hacks: http://www.googleearthhacks.com/ View Flickr Photos in Google Earth: http://kmlphotos.metaltoad.com/ Geocode data in large batches: http://batchgeocode.com Geotagthings — for easy geotagging of data: http://www.geotagthings.com/beta How to Geotag photos: http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2005/07/how_to_gps_tag.html MetaCarta — Text to geocode conversion: http://www.metacarta.com/ Virtual Terrain Project — “foster the creation of tools for easily constructing any part of the real world in interactive, 3D digital form.” http://vterrain.org/

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