Wednesday, May 2, 2012

There's a Mapp for That!

This semester Dr. Boellstorff invited faculty colleagues to share ideas for possible class projects with students in her GIS II class. This provided an opportunity to begin the process of re-modernizing the County Map Project I had begun in paper form more than 20 years ago, and had gradually moved online in the late 1990s.

This is a geographer's "life list" of places visited, in which I indicate every county I have been in. I eventually learned that the Extra Milers Club is a network of people doing the same thing, with each participant free to make up her or his own rules about what "counts" as a visit. My rules have been simple. If I am certain I have been in a county, I mark it in yellow; if I have lived there for a month or more, I mark it in blue, and I have applied the same rules at the state level in other countries.

For a while, I was able to help a few other hobbyists with some base maps and instructions I posted on my "about" page, but eventually the software involved became problematic, so I started to move the whole project to an official GIS platform. A series of hardware and software fiascoes ensued, and the project lie dormant for years, until GIS student Matt Scholtes decided to take up the baton.

The image above is a snapshot of Matt's project, in which he began coding my travels and also did some experimentation with queries that would compare the county counts along different proposed travel routes. We will be adding some of the files he created to my existing web site, and hope eventually to create a web-based service that will give users the ability to maintain their own maps online.

As I wrote last week, the Boston area is a major center for the development of mobile computing applications, so the possibilities for a county map app could be quite real. ESRI continues to provide new ways to bring data online, and citizen-based GIS platforms such as PeopleForms are pushing this field even faster.

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