Things you should read this week. 12/1/14

How red or blue is your neighborhood? – Washington Post

Philadelphia Council Member Show Off their New Know Your Neighborhood Tool – Plan Philly.

Census Bureau Statistics Show How Young Adults Today Compare With Previous Generations in Neighborhoods Nationwide  – Census Bureau.

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Review: Does Your Zip Code Determine What You Buy?

Today I found a blog from The Wall Street Journal about how the zip code that you live in could dictate who you are.  Mapping behemoth ESRI mashed Census data along with marketing data from GfK Mediamark Research & Intelligence and tries to predict what you will buy according to the zip code you live in.

The mapping piece is beautiful, the map moves smoothly and the graphics are top notch. The descriptions of the socio-economic levels are stereotypical and questionable.

I did some spot checking around my area  in South Jersey to see how the data compares to my own local knowledge.  I gave to say that in the zip code that I live in ESRI did get the fact that there are a lot of apartment dwellers in my hometown correct.  What they did not get right was the fact that a lot of these apartment dwellers are not millennials, instead they are middle class families. Looking at the Census data can tell you that.

I also found the categories in the “Top Tapestry Segments” incredibly insensitive and stereotypical.

Case in point: Camden City Zip Code 08110

This area in Camden is broken down into:

36% American Dreamers: Basically foreign born married couples and older people

30% Parks and Rec: People who live in older more established communities

18% Urban Villages: Recent immigrants who do not speak fluent English

The Urban Village description is the one I find most offensive.  “Shopping for trendy clothes for the whole family is important so we can be fashionable”.  Why is this connected to the urban poor?  Why play up to stereotypes? I think that this map has some really good uses but I think that it delivers its message poorly.

Check out the map here and feel free to leave your comments.

Another Introduction to GIS

Nice summary of what GIS is. There are many definitions out there.

Texas A&M Geoservices

There are several definitions used while explaining geographic information systems (GIS).  One of the most popular definitions for GIS is “a computer-based system to aid in the collection, maintenance, storage, analysis, output, and distribution of spatial data and information. (Bolstad)”  GIS helps us gather and use spatial data;  it is concerned with absolute and relative location of features (the where) and it’s concerned with properties and attributes of those features (the what).

GIS quantifies locations by recording their coordinate positions on Earth (latitude/longitude).  GIS tools are essential in business, government, education, and non-profit organizations (Bolstad).  It helps us identify and address environmental problems by providing information on where the problems occur and who are affected by them.  Using GIS we are able to identify the source, location, and extent of environmental impacts.

Advances in three key technologies have helped aid in the development of GIS; imaging, GNSS, and computing.  Cameras…

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GIS Resources: GIS Lounge and Q-GIS

Recently a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page a link to a free course on QGIS, a free open-sourced GIS software package.  I was so excited to see this as I have been really interested in this software but haven’t been able to find a tutorial for it.  I tried to find some stuff on YouTube there was nothing there that would help out a new user.  This course is being offered by Canvas By Instructure, a start-up founded in 2008  that colleges and universities use to offer online classes.  I signed up for the Q-GIS course which is at your own pace.  I liked this idea because it’s hard for me to juggle assignments with all that i have going on in my everyday life.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how it goes.  For more info go to GIS Lounge a really cool site that keeps GIS users up-to-date on everything going on in the GIS world.

Brief History of GIS.

Most of my professional life has revolved around GIS (Geographical Information Systems).  GIS is a mapping application that is used by many disciplines to visualize and map data.  GIS systems use tabular data along with spatial data so that patterns can be seen and interpreted.

All kinds of data can be mapped such as demographic, environmental, medical, etc. There are many kinds of GIS systems available, some are pricey and some are available for free.  GIS does have a steep learning curve, but once you understand how it works you use the same principles to just about all GIS platforms.

If you are interested in learning more about cartography and GIS check out this article from the Smithsonian on the history of GIS.