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Where 2012 Conference

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Based on the number of views that YouTube has tallied for the many sessions recorded at thebosnia.png Where 2012 Conference, I am one of the few people who waited for them to be posted in early April.  That observation is somewhat sad because there are some gems hidden in those not-so-viral videos.

One gem is the Stratocam presentation. presents you with a slideshow of some of the best satellite images  of the earth's shorelines, man-made towers, lakes, desserts, and topographic images.  You can give a thumbs up or down on each image, or you can venture out to "snap" some of your own finds for others to vote on.

Thumbnail image for timehop.pngThere were other just-for-fun applications introduced at the conference. Timehop purports to amalgamate your activities from one year ago using your Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram posts and send them to you in one email a day. The email "brings it all back to you."  I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

Alohar Mobile introduced its Mobile Location Behavior Analytics platform that uses information gatheredplaceme.png from their PlaceMe app. The free Placeme app for iOS and Android uses your phone's GPS and WiFi locator to record everywhere you have been and how long you stayed.  What is thought-provoking is Alohar's  software development kit that will help developers create apps using all that location information that you have sent to them. Using those potential apps, your smart phone can then become your "personal assistant," recommending where cheaper gas is and what route home you might want to try when your usual path is moving slowly. 

Hmmm...isn't this information a little too invasive and pervasive, a least for the current generation of smart phone users?  Maybe not.

President's Day

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Happy President's Day!

presidential elections.jpgAs We celebrate and recognize the men who have led our country.  I thought it would be interesting to review the voting history of Wyoming (where I'm from)  in comparison to Pennsylvania (where I live) and then to California (for variety).

Since I moved to Pa I have been told more than once that since I was from Wyoming "Of course Your Republican".  Does geography play a large factor in a political bent?  Are people from more populated areas automatically Democrats any more than people from the wide open, least populated state of Wyoming Republican?  I'm not sure; I'll ever know the answer to this question..... However, I can look at the history of the state and compare.

Starting with the 1892 election ending with the 2008 election; Wyoming being the state that was added to Union the latest in 1890.

  • ·        Wyoming gave Republican Candidates their electoral votes in 22 out of 30 times, 8 times to Democratic Candidates
  • ·        Pennsylvania gave Republican candidates their electoral votes in 17 out of 30, 1 year to the Progressive Party Candidate, and 12 times to Democratic Candidates
  • ·        California gave Republican candidates their electoral votes in 14 out of 30, 2 years they split their votes between the two parties, 13 times they gave them completely to the Democratic Party Candidate and 1 year to the Progressive Party Candidate.

From this information and the limit to elections between 1892-2008, all of these three states have given their electoral votes to the Republican Party more than the Democratic Party.  Draw what conclusions you want from this information and have a look at the maps.  You can view sections of this map from the National Atlas. Call Number: G3701.F9 2000.G4

In the nature of the election process of the United States maps are used to show the progress of one candidate or another.  Many maps will be produced to predict, sum up, and review the voters throughout the coming election.  Here you can map the current election on 270 to Win. 

Here is an election map of 2008 that reflects the population density in a specific area verse the actual land mass.  Since cartogram 2008 presidential election.jpgit is the population that influences the Electoral College and not the acreage, this image portrays the actual votes more visually accurately.  Even thou, I'm not known for my WYO pride, I feel a little sad when I see it disappear in the cartogram.  Still knowing WYO is the least populated state, it would make sense being so small.  (more explanation of this map/cartogram can be found in this link )

We have the Atlas of the Real World referred to in this blog post. It's is fun to stroll through and see the changes when acreage is removed as a factor.  Call Number: Maps G1021.D586 2008

Location Based Services in Gaming

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I have been watching the progress of Mozilla's Open Badges project whose goal is to eventually provide a means to certify skills and knowledge acquBadges-for-Lifelong-Learning.jpgired outside of the traditional classroom  (Badges for Life-Long Learning).  I was hoping we could eventually award badges, for fun and for utility, to library employees participating in our annual staff development program.  

Aside from the library connection, what possible relevance does Open Badges hold for the Maps Library?

The connection, albeit tangential, is provided through location-based services, specifically (higher) educational "games" based on location.  "Badges for Learning," a recent post on Rey Junco's blog, Social Media in Higher Education, explains how LBS can be incorporated into badging systems to support student learning.  Dr. Junco proposes, "We hypothesize that we can Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for foursquare.pngimprove college student academic outcomes by combining Location Based Services (LBS) with a badging system employing game dynamics and integrating it in an educationally-relevant way in a large-lecture course at The University of Florida." Location based check-ins to study groups, visiting a TA's office or a tutoring session, and even into scheduled classes can earn points toward badges, and hopefully make learning more enjoyable. (Penn State also has an Educational Gaming effort.)

In contrast to higher-ed applications are the just-for-fun location games that are appeaing on the market. One trend spotter in a Mashable op-ed  noted that games have come full circle.  Decades before children and teens became glued to laptops and desktops to play computer games, they played location games like Hide and Seek, Marco Polo, and Capture the Flag.  In his op-ed, Greg Steen writes that we are poised for a mobile-app driven emergence of traveling games to entice us into the streets, and that the location-based gaming market can become a highly profitable industry.

One such game that makes you hit the streets is Stray Boots, an interactive walking tour and private scavenger hunt of major cities. Another active LBS, mobile device game is Dead Drop that will soon be launched for iOS, Android and web. It is a live-strayboots.pngaction multiplayer elimination game played by groups of friends in and around their communities. 

Maybe we have come full circle to "computer" games that take you back out into the sunshine.  These games, though, often have a price tag attached, if not in their download, then buried in the path in which they take you to local restaurants, coffee shops, and other for-profit establishments.

Sky Map

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 I love mobile devices.

Sauntering through the neighborhood last month, enjoying the holiday lights, I looked up into the evening sky and saw what I knew was a planet beaming its reflected light to earth.  JupiterUranus.jpgBut which planet was it?  Luckily my son had his Droid X along, and he tapped it into the Google Sky Map app. 

Sure enough, we were able to identify Jupiter and even Uranus and confirmed these on the PBS  website Seeing in the Dark ( right - click for larger image).  The Sky Map app uses Android-powered devices' built-in compass, GPS, and clock to display an annotated Sky Map of the area it is facing. The map adjusts to different areas as you move your phone up and down and back and forth. 

Droid Canis.jpgI pulled my Droid out again last night and pointed it skywards. Sure enough it zeroed into the State College sky and found Canis Major,  just above the horizon at that time, and I took a picture of my Droid screen (left).

With Sky Map, you  can zoom in and out, and switch on and off various layers such as constellations, planets, grids, and deep-sky objects, choosing to make these elements visible or not. You can find planets and stars relative to your own current location with the search function. Inputting the name of a planet or star will direct you toward them, or you can explore manually and move through the sky by touching the screen instead of having it adjust automatically.  iPhone, of course, has comparable capabilities with their Starmap app.)

That's mobile...learning anywhere, any time.

Night Sky Celetial Globe small.jpgYou can always visit the Maps Library to see the three-dimensional, "old-fashioned" globes of Mars, Venus, the Moon, Starship Earth, or the Nightsky Celestial Globe (right), or check out one of our many sky maps.

More on Animated Maps

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Last month I wrote about creating your very own animated maps using Animaps and mentioned that animating maps is one way to bring history to life.  One such website is simply called History Animated, subtitled "A New Look at Military History."  Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for historyanimated.pngThis site is recommended by teachers, professors, and also The School Library Journal. The conflicts that have been animated include the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, WWII Europe, the Pacific Theater, and the newest Mexican American War.

mapashistory.pngImages et Savoirs is a French company that purports to  "design and publish multimedia educational and cultural tools" and it gives us the website Maps as History.  They have created 175 moving maps that cover the Age of Discovery, Ancient Greece, the United States - Territorial History, and many more.

Museums have also created animated history liberation.png
websites.  For example, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has created 11 animated maps that depict the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz,  the Liberation and other Holocaust-related places and events. With permission from the museum, these animations can be included in your multimedia presentations.

There are many other examples of animated maps that can be found by using your favorite search engine.  Of course, the Maps Library has many fine historical maps and maps depicting historical events for you to explore and check out.

The Future of GPS


GPS stands for Global Positioning System, which consists of two main parts: satellites that send signals to Earth and receivers that pick up those signals.  Improvements in technology have allowed GPS receivers to become ubiquitous, built into mobile phones and car navigation systems, and the term itself has become so common that it is frequently misused (come on, TurboTax, is your software really using satellite signals to guide your customers through filing their taxes?  I don't think so).

GPS receivers work by collecting signals from at least three satellites, measuring the time it takes for the signal to travel from each satellite to the receiver, a measure which then is converted to distance.  From these distances, position can be calculated.  Depending on the quality of the receivers and of the surroundings (tall buildings, canyons, and thick forest cover can interfere with signals), accuracy is generally within 5 - 10 meters.  As satellites are replaced and improved over time, accuracy may increase even more.

At the same time that we've become more and more reliant on GPS data, we've also become more and more reliant on broadband for internet and communications.  Both services are big business.  And as it turns out, attempts to scale up one may have detrimental effects on the other.

GPS signals are sent over the section of the electromagnetic spectrum known as the L-band.  Recently the FCC granted a conditional waiver to a broadband company called LightSquared to build ground stations that would transmit over an adjoining section of the L-band, at much greater strengths than what is transmitted from satellites.  This could result in interference significant enough to make satellite signals difficult or impossible to pick up, limiting GPS range and function.

LightSquared is required to conduct research to show that inference will be minimal or that technology can find a work around.  Meanwhile, dozens of companies and organizations have come together in the Coalition to Save Our GPS, to express their concerns and lobby against this waiver.  The federal departments of Defense and Transportation are also weighing in; so many services and industries are dependent on GPS that it's difficult to imagine going back to a world where location information isn't quickly and easily available.

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