Posted in New thinking

The Geographic Sciences and Regional Development

Imagine you are a movie maker, and you have been charged with marketing the Annapolis Valley.

You discover that the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in Lawrencetown has world-class expertise in the application of geomatics technologies to geographic issues. Given the current state of these tools, how could your movie be enhanced ?
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First, by Geographic Sciences, we include a range of methodological tools. Historically, this would be map making (cartography) and the interpretation of aerial photographs. Today, we would expand the list to cover a wide range of remote sensing (e.g. satellite imagery), the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones, networks of climate sensors, as well as airborne and bathymetric LiDAR. We would include Geographic Information System (GIS), software which permits the integration of multiple layers of geography in a digital and web-based environment. At COGS, there are also other complementary programs in Surveying, Planning and IT.

Given this rich array of technologies, how might COGS assist in marketing the Annapolis Valley geography?

  1. We could ensure access to high-quality maps. This might include historic maps from the Walter Morrison collection. It might include early satellite imagery showing the changes in the land cover in the region, e.g. agriculture and forestry.
  2. Since Cartography is also a digital science, we would want to ensure the best quality design for display both on-line and in a traditional paper format.
  3. GIS is an integrating technology. It allows the viewer to interrogate the landscape on many levels at the same time. For example, we could have an interactive map of the Valley. The user could identify transects across the landscape and then move the cursor along the transect. Whenever there was a change in soil, land cover or geology, a window would pop up with the details. Or imagine hovering over a place name and a pop up shows you the demographic profile and other economic facts about the community.
  4. Another feature of GIS is the ‘story map’ concept. To explain the diversity of residents in the region, we could create a point layer (dots) of video interviews in the Valley. Each dot would be classified or coloured, according to the type of interview e.g. topics, age group of the interview subject. Click on the dot and watch the video or listen to a podcast.
  5. The combination of GIS and Remote Sensing allows the user to ‘fly through the landscape’. The topography can be seen in three dimensions with current imagery draped over the surface. We could create a series of ‘fly through’ transects from South Mountain to the Bay of Fundy, at Annapolis Royal, Middleton, Kentville, Windsor.

By combining modern film techniques from different airborne vehicles, delivering high quality online cartographic products and experiences, we could showcase innovative Valley regional development. Our stories become embedded into the digital landscape.

I challenge our citizens and communities, then, to market the Annapolis Valley through geomatics technologies, the type we have at COGS in Lawrencetown, as a part of our economic development, tourism and heritage-building process and build our quality of place.

Thanks to Edward Wedler for his creative graphic and comments on earlier draft.

Posted in New thinking

Friends of COGS; a NOW opportunity

Last week, I attended a meeting between faculty at Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) and ex-faculty (CANMAP Research Institute). We were discussing common interests: collaborative projects involving Geomatics technology, mapping and agriculture. At the meeting, I became aware that the NSCC was looking for a new Principal for Lawrencetown/Middleton and the faculty were being surveyed for the qualities of the position. (Note: the current Principal will remain responsible for KingsTec in Kentville).

If the NSCC had asked my opinion, my list of the qualities would include:

i) a post-graduate degree in the Geographic Sciences

ii) practical experience with Geomatics technologies

iii) a champion for, and resident of, rural Nova Scotia

iv) with an interest in collaboration, and community economic development

At the recent Valley REN Annual General Meeting, I learned that government had invested in a wine laboratory at Acadia University. Last night, we went to hear the Young ‘Uns, a British folk group, at the Evergreen Theatre. Again, all levels of government have invested in the renovations of this wonderful grass-roots community resource.

Here is my proposal.

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It seems that KingsTec is destined to become the centre for training and research in agricultural technology. Why not look at AnnapolisTec to be the centre of training and research in geographical technology. The components already exist: technical training at COGS in Lawrencetown; applied research at AGRG in Middleton. Indeed, we could apply the geographical technologies at AnnapolisTec to the agricultural problems at KingsTec. This would facilitate collaboration between the two counties. Something that is missing from the Valley REN.

Finally, back to Friends of COGS. In Annapolis County, there are likely upwards of twenty ex-faculty who have spent long careers teaching surveying, cartography, GIS, Community Planning, IT and Remote Sensing COGS. Why not access this resource ?

Last night, I heard the voices of the Young ‘Uns, perhaps it is time we heard the voices of the Old ‘Uns. This proposal would likely receive the support of all levels of government, and would benefit communities in rural Nova Scotia. It is a model that could be replicated elsewhere. It builds upon existing infrastructure and people resources. It has a proven track record. Let’s ‘Just do it’, NOW.

 

Posted in New thinking

Mind the Gap: between institutions and communities

This weekend the Ernest Buckler Learning Event Society (EBLES) hosted Reading where we live: a celebration of local writing at the Bridgetown Legion. The focus was on local. It included a panel discussion on the writing process, associated with Paul Colville’s book, The View from Delusion Road; a settler’s story. We invited two speakers from the academic community: Alex MacLeod, Professor of Canadian Literature and Atlantic Studies, Saint Mary’s University and Nick Mount, Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. It was a real treat that both of these professors willingly gave their time to be with the community in Annapolis County. Perhaps it is the legacy of Ernest Buckler.

The two presentations provided us with a rich context for ‘local’  at the ‘national’ and ‘global’ scale and within an interdisciplinary literary framework. They connected us to the post-secondary education community in the Valley – the work of Herb Wyile and Sandra Barry Elizabeth Bishop, Nova Scotia’s ‘Home-made’ Poet. Alex MacLeod referenced the conference at Acadia this July, Thoughts from the Eastern Edge, as well as Wyile book Anne of Tim Hortons: globalization and the reshaping of Atlantic Canadian literature. Nick Mount offered us an historical context and referenced his book When Canadian Literature moved to New York.

As a retired ‘academic’, it was a a delight to be immersed briefly in the richness of ideas and to recognize the importance of interdisciplinary studies: history, geography, economics, media studies. The event coincided with my finishing Paul Heyer’s book on Harold Innis, with such abstract chapter titles,  as ‘Time, Space and the Oral tradition’ and ‘Monopolies of Knowledge and the Critique of Culture’. And Darrell Varga’s Shooting from the East: filmmaking on the Canadian Atlantic.  I could ‘join the dots’ and see the connection between Varga’s writing about film, and MacLeod’s writing about books in the region.

mindTheGap_MelvernSquare
Mind the gap 
is an expression familiar to anyone visiting London, UK who uses the underground. My concern is the ‘gap’ between our post-secondary education institutions and the communities. Both MacLeod and Mount responded to a need (request) from the community (EBLES). They showed us that we can ‘mind the gap’ and step carefully, from the platform onto a fast moving train. Ultimately, we are all ‘inside/outside’ a number of communities.

The full agenda of Reading where we live can be found in my previous blog.

Posted in New thinking

Using online games to study what tourists find attractive here.

Imagine if we could, through games, explore the preferences of European, Asian, Middle Eastern, North American and other visitors to our region and cater our tourist destinations (and direct our dollars) to meet those preferences.

We THINK we know what attracts tourists to our area, but how can we measure that objectively?  How can we rank one destination over another? I propose we have tourists play games — online games. Apply game concepts to unearth the mindset of our potential visitors. Here I pilot a basic game called “ValleySeen”, the results of which can be used to evaluate what landscapes/streetscapes appeal to our visitors. Go ahead and play in my test area of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

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ValleySeen applies the urban “StreetSeen” project, created by students at Ohio State University and used in the MOOC, Technicity, to explore gaming in a rural setting. StreetScene is based on the work of Open Plans Beautiful Street Project and MIT’s Media Lab Place Pulse Project .

This is how it works …

Display pairs of images that are randomly selected from a library of Google Street View images within an area. Pose a planning question. Have the player vote on the image that best suits the question. Tabulate and analyse the responses to rank users’ preferences and even generate ‘heat maps’.

I applied StreetSeen to look at Annapolis Royal through the eyes of a tourist. I wanted to know what tourists found attractive. I focused on Annapolis Royal as a test area. I randomly selected twenty Google Street View images and generated results in spreadsheet and map form. I ranked the preferred images based on the question asked, and analysed results.

valleySeen_02

My pilot was limited in scope: geography, number of images, analyses. In future, I propose adding the geographic source of respondents in the analyses.

Furthermore, I propose that gaming concepts be used to study our tourism and tourists to better develop destination plans for Nova Scotia.