Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GIS Workshop Video

The design and marketing team in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Kentucky has finished producing a great video showcasing a couple university-community partnerships from my GIS Workshop course.  Also see an article written by the UK PR team, copied below.

[ See a previous iteration of this kind of video about GIS Workshop, here. ]


GIS Workshop: Community Partners from UK College of Arts & Sciences on Vimeo.


GIS Workshop Strengthens Community Ties

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 27, 2012) — For the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, it was an opportunity to reorganize youth programs; for the nonprofit Seedleaf, it was a way to better connect with volunteers; and for students in geography Professor Matt Wilson's class, it was the chance to apply their skills to engage with the Lexington community.

Students in Wilson's Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Workshop course spent the past semester applying their knowledge of geographic technology from the classroom to assist real organizations in Lexington. The course, which capitalizes on resources within the College of Arts and Sciences, provides students with hands-on experience through community-based partnerships. Students incorporate mapping techniques and technology to enhance community organizations' operations.

"GIS Workshop is a great opportunity, primarily because it provides students with a capstone experience that allows them to apply the skills that they've already learned in their first and second years," Wilson said. "It's also great for community partners who otherwise would not have access to these rather expensive and sometimes time-consuming technologies — to be able to spend 12-13 weeks working with university students to build products that they can actually use in their day-to-day lives."

Geography student Amanda Witbeck worked with the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice (CKCPJ), creating maps that showed the spatial priorities of youth in Lexington. This involved utilizing a survey to determine the needs of high-risk youth, then mapping the data.

"These youth helped develop questions that they thought were really important to ask other youth," Kerby Neill, volunteer coordinator for the CKCPJ said. "We were very excited when we could begin to map these kinds of issues. We could say, 'where are the kids that are responding to this living, and where are their needs, and how do they compare with where the services are?'"

Neill said that a shortage of youth services represented a large concern for the CKCPJ, as programs for inner-city and at-risk youth had been shrinking dramatically. The new data will allow the organization to enhance the youth services that it offers.

"These maps that we made will probably be used in the next year to make some real differences in the Lexington community," Witbeck said.

Geography and German student Jon Finnie voiced the same sentiment with his community partnership.

Seedleaf is a nonprofit organization that installs and maintains community gardens. With eight free and open community gardens, as well as eight market gardens from which the organization sells food online, Seedleaf serves to address food-related issues in areas with diet-related health problems.

"With the GIS Workshop, we wanted to do two things," Finnie said, "First off, we wanted to make maps that would help them communicate to the community — to both volunteers and to people who otherwise had not known about Seedleaf, just help them communicate where and what they do. The second thing was to create some maps using things like census data that would help Seedleaf communicate where exactly in town people were finding it difficult to access tasty, nutritious food, which is typically more expensive, so we tied that back to income data."

Seedleaf founder and director Ryan Koch said that the students' help with connecting with volunteers was immensely useful.

"To have volunteer labor come out and catch a garden up, it means a lot to our organization, and it means a lot to the yield in the garden," Koch said. "Our stuff just does better when there are more hands on board, and to be able to make it accessible to volunteers was a big deal."

The maps also identified the locations of all Seedleaf gardens, helping demonstrate that the organization was addressing diet-related issues in key areas.

"We really want to demonstrate that we're doing our programming in these food deserts for a reason," Koch said.

Wilson said he was extremely pleased with the students' efforts as well as the real-world experience that the community partners provided.

"GIS Workshop is just one example of the many ways that we are trying to build connections to the community within the College of Arts and Sciences," Wilson said. "I look forward to future opportunities to do this kind of work."

MEDIA CONTACT: Sarah Geegan, (859) 257-5365; sarah.geegan@uky.edu

Friday, June 8, 2012

Critical GIS Faculty Position Announced

It's very interesting to see a faculty position announced so clearly in "critical GIS"! Definitely feels like a first...

Lecturer in Human or Environmental Geography (Critical GIS Specialism)
Fixed-term for 2 years

The Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London invites applications for a fixed-term lectureship in Human or Environmental Geography with a specialism in Critical GIS. A research focus on the interface between geo-technologies and environmental and/or development themes is particularly desirable. Indicative areas of interest and research include Participatory GIS, location-based digital technologies and their relationships with communications technologies, and the politics and governance of spatial data and geo-technologies.

The successful applicant would join the Politics, Development and Sustainability (PDS) Research Group. This group of about 20 research-active staff and 35 PhD students works in locations across the globe with key research foci being: communications and technologies; sustainable living; geopolitics and security. There is a strong record of collaborative research with UK and international partners in the public, private and NGO sectors.

The appointee will make a strong contribution to undergraduate teaching, developing the Department's approach towards the teaching of GIS and geo-technology and the skills-sets and employability of its graduates. The appointment will also make a significant contribution to teaching at Masters level particularly the MSc in Practising Sustainable Development, including the stream in Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D).

Formal details of the posts and application procedure can be found at https://rhul.engageats.co.uk

For an informal discussion about these posts please contact the Head of Department, Professor David Gilbert  (D.Gilbert@rhul.ac.uk) or the Director of the Politics, Development and Sustainability Group, Professor Katie Willis (Katie.Willis@rhul.ac.uk).

The deadline for applications is 24 June 2012.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

GIS Workshop 2012

This semester I've helped to facilitate nine university-community partnerships in my upper-division GIS classroom (GEO509), drawing on previous instantiations of this program in 2011 and in 2010.  The students will be presenting their work on these projects on May 2nd, and have composed abstracts and provided snapshots of work-in-progress to help describe their projects.

Lawrence County, Kentucky Vaccination Campaign
Pilar Desha, UK Geography
Alli Sehon, UK Anthropology
Ron Enders, Lawrence County Health Department

With a grant from CancerFreeKY, the Lawrence County Health Department launched a vaccine campaign in 2011 to combat the growing HPV infection rate in Eastern Kentucky.  The HPV vaccine is administered in three separate doses spread over a period of several months and can be extremely costly to patients even with insurance coverage.  The Lawrence County HPV Vaccine Campaign is offering the full shot series for free to all county residents between the ages of 9 and 26. After several months of giving out vaccines, the Health Department, under the guidance of Dr. Ron Enders, wants to examine the success and shortcomings of their educational and medical campaign.  Using patient-provided home addresses, UK students are examining the relationship between income, educational attainment, communication networks, and the physical topography to assess what areas of Lawrence County are unable to receive or are unaware of the HPV vaccine.  Using data from the US Census Bureau at the census tract and block levels, a series of maps have been created which display the human terrain of Lawrence County and focus on a few key demographic elements.  From these maps, patterns of social and economic barriers emerge, which can be used to guide and refine future decisions regarding the HPV Vaccine Campaign, with the goal of reducing the infection rate of young adults in Lawrence County, Kentucky.

Seedleaf: Mapping Food Systems
Jon Finnie, UK Geography and German
Jamie Keyes, UK Natural Resources
Ryan Koch and Rebecca Self, Seedleaf

In this project, students mapped the assets of the organization, including the gardens and compost bins spread across town.  Students analyzed the location of these assets (u-pick sites, compost pick-ups at restaurants) with regard to the demographics of the north and east end where Seedleaf focuses their programming. Students will make Seedleaf gardens and composting sites more accessible to volunteers and to neighbors of the sites themselves, thereby fulfilling Seedleaf’s goals of growing gardeners and of making more nutritious food available in Central Kentucky's food deserts.

Open Lexington: Map Walks
Preston Evans, UK Geography
Dylan Powell, UK Geography
Chris Stieha and Chase Southard, Open Lexington

Students worked with Open Lexington, an organization advocating free and available local government data, and the students of another UK course called Digital Mapping (UKC101), to collect geospatial data about restaurant health inspections using ‘smart’ phones.  Starting from public web-based resources, the students designed the data collection process, compiled the data post-collection, and utilized GIS software to produce multiple maps showing different aspects of the health inspection data.  Students will showcase how these kinds of data can be used in spatial analysis of the city and in visualization projects through mapping, and also talk about the advantages and pitfalls of primary data collection in the modern world.

Kentucky River Watershed Watch:  Mapping Volunteered Data
Esta Day, UK Library and Information Science
Jacob Van Winkle, UK International Studies
Bethany Overfield, Kentucky River Watershed Watch

Our project is directed at the KRWW, Powell County, Meniffee County, and Wolfe County governments to promote awareness of water quality in the Red River Watershed.  We are creating two maps that display georeference bar graphs showing change over time of two water quality analyses: conductivity and fecal coliform count.

Mapping Special Collections: Mills
Beth Jenkins, UK Geography and Classics
Danny McCamish, UK Natural Resources Conservation Management
Drew Patrick, UK History
Ruth Bryan, UK Libraries

Our group took the information provided by Kenneth Pidgeon on historical mills and mill sites in Fayette and Clark counties and organized it to be more accessible to other researchers. Our first step was to sort through the paper documentation and create a more detailed Finding Aid that will allow people to more easily understand the scope and content of information on each mill. We also organized the digital information by mill. After cleaning up Pidgeon’s GPS data, we created several maps to display the information. First was an overview that shows each mill as a point over a modern map. The second was an overview of all mill locations over a nineteenth-century base map. Finally, we went into more detail for three specific mills for which Pidgeon provided the most geographic and historical information. For these case studies, we created individual maps and web links to some of the paper documentation available in the Special Collection folders. We are also keeping detailed records of the process by which we complete this assignment and will be creating an additional library entry titled “University of Kentucky. College of Arts and Sciences. Department of Geography. GEO 509 Geographic Information Systems Workshop: Project records on the Kenneth Pidgeon Papers, 2012.” Ideally, this document collection will be used by future researchers who are interested in how GIS was taught and practiced during the early 21st century. We will be presenting our final products, including the Finding Aid, maps and links to paper documentation, to the class and community partners during our final meeting, in addition to filing them with the University of Kentucky Special Collections.

Economic Development Support Structures
Hannah McKenrick, UK Entomology
Joshua Spears, UK Geography
Shane Barton, UK Appalachian Center

This project is done in collaboration with the UK Appalachian Center. The Center’s primary goal is to facilitate connections between students, faculty members, colleges and universities, and the Appalachian community of Kentucky in order to address the particular needs of the Appalachian community. This particular project is part of a larger research initiative currently being spearheaded by the UK Appalachian Center and a National Science Foundation-funded working group within the Appalachian Region. The primary goal of this project was to facilitate communication between development agencies and businesses using maps of service areas as categorized by service type provided. The end product includes maps and descriptions of every organization that serves the economic needs of at least two counties within Appalachian Kentucky. The services provided by all these organizations were then subdivided into service categories which were then mapped. Finally, in order to make this information accessible to those businesses in the region who will utilize this data most, the maps will be supplied via interactive display on the UK Appalachian Center’s website.

Local Museum Trail Project
Clay Bisceglia, UK Geography
Katie Eaton, UK Natural Resources and Environmental Science
Mark Morrow, UK Geography
Ann Kingsolver and Shane Barton, UK Appalachian Center

While working with the UK Appalachian Center, we have developed a series of maps that plot historical sites throughout the Kentucky Appalachian counties (as well as some connecting counties). Our main historical focus was sites on the Affrilachian Trail, a related project on a virtual tour of African American history in Appalachia. These maps will be interactive and available through publicly accessible media applications. Many counties are using historical tourism as means of economic development, and this virtual trail will help connect their efforts. 

Kentucky Council on Peace and Justice: Mapping Youth Services
Zach Nicholas, UK Geography
Amanda Witbeck, UK Geography
Kerby Neill, Kentucky Council on Peace and Justice

We have used the Kentucky Council on Peace and Justice’s Youth Initiative survey to analyze the needs of youth within Fayette county. We have mapped youth service assets, such as churches and other youth agencies/organizations, to show the relationship of their locations to the youth in need of outreach programs. We are creating choropleth maps, pie charts, and dot density maps showing priorities of youth, youth demographics, and maps of assets that can be used for youth outreach.

Post Office Project
R. Jarrod Chandler, UK Geography
Araba Prah, UK Architecture
Miles Waskey, UK Geography
Ann Kingsolver and Shane Barton, UK Appalachian Center

In March of 2011, the United States Postal Service released a list of thousands of post offices branches slated to be closed.  A major issue the public is having is gaining a recently updated list on these closings and when these locations will officially close their doors. Particularly in rural communities, post offices have become a fixture in the area’s urban fabric. A place to congregate and receive news; many times these centers are multigenerational with 3rd or even 4th generation postmasters. Research has shown Kentucky’s Appalachian Region to have a high number of proposed closings, with about 90 planned within 54 counties. The focus of the Appalachian Post Office Project is to map the locations of proposed post office closings and create analytical maps which describe certain demographic characteristics such as economic status, percentage of individuals over the age of 65, and broadband access. In conjunction to the analytical analyses, an interactive map displaying existing and proposed closures with links to recent and historical photographs of post offices will give the public an interface to explore. Advocacy to stop these closings is not the intent of this project, but rather to inform the public of the important role post offices play in Kentucky’s rural communities. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Celebrity Mapping Project

Students in my Digital Mapping course (UKC101, soon to be GEO109), with TAs Ryan Cooper and Sonya Prasertong, worked on a 'generative constraint' project -- a module that Jentery Sayers and I developed as part of our Huckabay Teaching Fellowship while at the University of Washington.

The constraint was to take photos of a celebrity cutout around Lexington, developing a creative story that links together the photos and places.  The students then tagged these photos to a collaborative Google Map.


Celebrity Mapping Project with Matt Wilson from UK College of Arts & Sciences on Vimeo.

Friday, January 27, 2012

OpenLexington + GIS Workshop

This video highlights/promotes a specific community-based GIS project in partnership with OpenLexington and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.  Students in this year's GIS workshop will work with OpenLexington to collect data to demonstrate the utility of open data within municipal government.


Matt Wilson on GIS Workshop from UK College of Arts & Sciences on Vimeo.

UPDATE (2/3):  See an article written by UK PR about this effort:


Lexington, Ky. (Feb. 3, 2012) --The University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences is partnering with the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government in an effort to open the municipal government's data practices.

The call for open data, or publicly available data, has been widespread throughout Lexington government. Mayor Jim Gray included the initiative in his election platform, and the Urban County Council agreed that open data is important for Lexington Fayette Urban County development.

UK geography Professor Matt Wilson is leading the initiative from the College of Arts and Sciences.

"Currently, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government charges a fee for access to spatial data," Wilson said. "So, even though it is a taxpayer supported entity, they try to save costs by charging fees to get access to what would normally be publicly available data."

The current data policy encompasses data sets ranging from bus routes and bike lanes to restaurant evaluation scores-- information useful to citizens, businesses and nonprofit organizations. However, the open-data policy would make this information obtainable, free of charge.

"Most municipalities recognize that there is an economic incentive to making data available," Wilson said. "It takes up less bureaucratic time in terms of setting up contractual arrangements to make the data available, and businesses and nonprofits find the data really useful for supporting their core operations."

To make the initiative viable, Wilson joined forces with a nonprofit advocacy group calledOpenLexington. Founded by Chase Southard, a former research analyst in the UK College of Medicine, the group aims to build tools and educate the public on the importance of open data.

"The transformation of a city towards transparency and their commitment to publish data in a manner consistent with the principles of open data allows for a number of interesting things to happen," Southard said. "First, any citizen can now, if they choose, inspect the actions of their government. Second, businesses, researchers and journalists no longer have to file expensive freedom of information requests to gain access to data. Last, machine readable, programmatic access to data can be used to build innovative, new, or plainly useful applications."

These applications would be convenient avenues for utilizing data — for example, smart phone applications that exhibit restaurant inspection scores or bus routes.

In preparation for the legal mechanism of the initiative to launch, Wilson and Southard have developed a platform to make data available, using the resources of the College of Arts and Sciences. Southard will set up a server, borrowing the source code from a similar system,OpenDataPhilly, and use the college's infrastructure to store the data.

"The city is in agreement that once the data becomes available, they will hand some of the data over to Arts and Sciences," Wilson said. "We will provide a data outlet for the rest of the city."

Wilson has already begun conversations with data communities in Lexington to discuss which data sets would be most useful to make available first.

"From the college's perspective, we have the infrastructure to do this kind of work," Wilson said. "We have the technical expertise. OpenLexington is providing a great deal of technical support to help us program the server and get that arrangement set up. It's wonderful to have such a great support staff at Arts and Sciences that allows us to think in creative and collaborative ways with the city."

Wilson, Southard and Chad Cottle, a counterpart at the city, are developing other plans to advocate the initiative as well.

"The three of us are working to build something called CityCampLex," Wilson said. "It's structured like an un-conference; people just sort of show up and they work for a couple days together. The idea behind CityCampLex is to bring together people from the programming and technical hacking communities to work with the city, to figure out different kinds of applications that could be built on top of the Open Data resource."

CityCampLex will be possible with help from Code For America, an organization dedicated to bringing Web professionals together with governments to promote openness and efficiency.
Through a new program called Code for America Brigade, whereby volunteers "build a civic Web together," Lexington is among the first of about 50 cities in the U.S. that the organization will provide with technical infrastructure and resources to support events like CityCampLex.

"CityCampLex will help build on the previous momentum and further help and encourage Lexington to make steps towards publishing open data through volunteer action," Southard said.  "We are planning for April, somewhere on UK's campus. 

"Having access to data helps citizens, businesses and organizations make informed decisions.  UK is full of enthusiastic professors, students and staff who want to contribute to this idea. Fortunately, UK has the capacity to foster ideas and make them realities."

To listen to a podcast, featuring Matt Wilson discussing his GIS Workshop Class, click here. This podcast was created by the College of Arts and Sciences.

MEDIA CONTACT: Sarah Geegan, (859) 257-5365; sarah.geegan@uky.edu

Friday, January 6, 2012

GIS Workshop Podcast

The Arts & Science PR team created this podcast describing the GIS Workshop course I'm offering this semester.  More details about the partnerships/projects will be posted, soon.