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Visualizations and Mashups in Online News Production


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Many digital technologies are emerging as production and consumption of news shifts to online media. With the growth of citizen journalism and the increased availability and access to information, data, and analytical tools, online news has the potential to become an effective tool in restoring public trust in media. This paper examines the most promising of these developing technologies.

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Visualizations and Mashups in Online News Production

  1. 1. VISUALIZATIONS AND MASHUPS IN ONLINE NEWS PRODUCTION by Andy Sternberg A Thesis Presented to the FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree MASTER OF ARTS (ONLINE JOURNALISM) May 2007Copyright 2007 Andy Sternberg
  2. 2. ii Table of ContentsAbstract iiiChapter 1: History 1Chapter 2: Two Models 4Chapter 3: GIS Technology — An Explanation 6Chapter 4: Use of GIS-based Maps in the News 8Chapter 5: Interactivity, Google Maps, and Mashups 11Chapter 6: Google Earth, Geotagging, 3-D and Movement 13Chapter 7: Privacy and Accessibility 15Chapter 8: Emerging Concepts in Interactive Online Maps 18Chapter 9: GIS, Maps, and Interactivity in the Future 21Chapter 10: Conclusion 23Bibliography 26Appendices Appendix A — Visual References 30 Appendix B — Tools for Journalists 50
  3. 3. iiiAbstract Many digital technologies are emerging as production and consumption ofnews shift to online media. With the growth of citizen journalism and the increasedavailability and access to information, data, and analytical tools, online news has thepotential to become an effective tool in restoring public trust in media. This paperexamines the most promising of these developing technologies.
  4. 4. 11. History The physical geography of Earth and its geospatial idiosyncrasies have beendebated since long before Columbus set sail to the West and thought he landed inIndia. Two millennia prior, Aristotle had already proven the spherical shape of theplanet to the utter disbelief of society for centuries to come. 1 While a cartographicrevolution of sorts took place in the mathematical and theoretical improvements inmaps of the 15th and 16th centuries, debates over the physical geography of Earthwould continue until the emergence of computer and satellite technology, alongsidespace travel in the 20th century. Soon after the launch of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik in 1957 first enabledphotography from Earth’s orbit, the development of GeographicalInformation Systems (GIS) technology began. The evolution of GIS in practice is notclear, according to historians, but British geographer Roger Tomlinson is generallycredited with creating the specialized field by beginning development of theCanadian Geographic Information System (CGIS) in 1963 2 . Six years later, Jack andLaura Dangermond founded the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI),which since 1981 has produced the industry standard ArcGIS software (initiallyARC/INFO) 3 . NASA’s Apollo Program 4 produced many historic moments in U.S. historyincluding Neil Armstrong’s famous broadcast while “walking” on the moon.1 “Aristotle.” (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 8, 2006, from EncyclopædiaBritannica Online:
  5. 5. 2More significant in the revolution of technology and visualization is the vivid photoof the full Earth, taken during the 1969 Apollo 10 mission. This fascinating imageburned a new, concrete, and emotional connection to the Earth witnessed from adistance — an isolated and fragile body. Later that year, John McConnell imprintedthe image on flags and copyrighted the “Earth Flag.” 5 Months later, the flag was acenterpiece at the inaugural Earth Day and the environmental movement hadofficially begun. By the 1970s more advanced satellites such as LandSat were put into orbitfor mapping purposes and for surveillance in defense of the Cold War. Thesesatellites, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, redefined the field ofgeography and how maps are made. It is also one reason that satellite-based 3-Dimages face many obstacles before being embraced by the public. Considering theoriginal sources of the technology, many societies have equated imaging satellites asinstruments used for surveillance. After the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 6 , in which the Internetbecame part of the public trust, users grew to demand and expect access to data thathad previously only been available to government institutions, such as the U.S.Defense Department.5 McConnell, John. "The History of the Earth Flag," originally printed in The Flag BulletinMarch/April 1982. Accessed March 10, 2007 via Berners-Lee, Tim. “Longer Bio” accessed March 3, 2007 via
  6. 6. 3Software and applications could now be distributed via the Internet, and in partbecause the nature of the World Wide Web as envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee wasan open, noncommercial resource for all, a large percentage of these programs wereopen-source — available at no cost and complete with the code structure for anyone tomanipulate or improve upon. As the source and uses of space technologies have been taken over by mediacorporations and open-source enthusiasts, satellite imagery is increasingly seen as apublic commodity. GIS visualization is increasingly seen as a trustworthy and benignsource of visual information. However, for privacy and national security interests,the extent to which satellite imagery is available is determined by the federalgovernment. In the United States it is the National Center for Geospatial IntelligenceStandards (NCGIS) is the coordinating organization within the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) 7 and the National Mapping Program 8 . In the UK andEuropean Union, open access movments such as OpenGeoData 9 continue to pushfor the availability of these files for free.7 accessed March 25, 2007
  7. 7. 42. Two Models Current trends in map usage for online news production can be delineated bytwo distinct models: the “cinematic” and the “interactive.” Visual maps as cinematicdevices for online storytelling and news reporting in the form of static graphics havegrown to encompass a range of preprogrammed models often presented with the helpof motion-enhanced multimedia programs such as Macromedia Flash. Whilecinematic content can be highly advanced, including video, 3-D presentations, andother complex technologies, it is essentially created and produced by a graphicsspecialist. Most importantly, the cinematic model does not allow for in-depthinteractivity (beyond basic start/stop navigation), ensuring that the content isdelivered as a controlled and immutable production. The “interactive” model has grown rapidly alongside the emergence ofwidespread broadband Internet access, further enabled by a growing pool of user-generated content and a wealth information, resources, and applications provided andshared by a strong open-source community. In “interactive” models, an application,often constructed by a graphics specialist, is developed for the interactive use,interpretation, and enjoyment of the audience. The user is provided with the tools anddata or information with which to draw from and to open the possibilities forcreation and exploration. This becomes a participatory quest for information andknowledge. Both “interactive” and “cinematic” map presentations are valuable tools inonline news gathering, analysis, and reporting. But the implementation of
  8. 8. 5interactivity in online content signals the news media’s acknowledgment of a fast-developing “hands-on” approach to the future of digital technology. The BBC andother British media outlets have led the charge in adapting to and encouragingincreased user interactivity, online comments, and rich multimedia contentdevelopment on Internet news sites. The U.S. media is fast catching up, however.CNN, for example, after exposing many viewers to the Keyhole satellite imagerythat would become integral to Google Earth, has since relied on citizen-generatedphotos and video of the July 2005 London Underground bombings and the 2006conflict in Lebanon and northern Israel. In August 2006, CNN launchedExchange 10 , to showcase user-generated news footage and commentary. Yahoo!followed suit in December, partnering with Reuters to form YouWitness News 11 ,and in February 2007 the Associated Press announced a partnership with the user-generated news site NowPublic 12 . Furthermore, growing communities of Internetusers are encouraging the geocoding — the process of assigning geographicidentifiers such as latitude and longitude or ZIP codes 13 — to data, text, and media,toenable the aggregation and visualization of localized online content.10
  9. 9. 63. GIS Technology — An Explanation As computers became more advanced in the 1990s and could store moredigital information while processing data faster, the functionality of convertingspatial data into visual representation for public use became a reality. In 1988, theNational Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) was establishedin the United States, the first GIS Conference was held, and the U.S. Census Bureaufor the first time released its TIGER (Topographically Integrated GeographicEncoding and Referencing) digital data product.The era of GAS in the newsroom had begun, and GIS has since redefined publicinterest newspaper reporting as an extension of computer-assisted reporting (CAR). As GIS provides the technology to extend database research and analysis intothe visual sphere, it has become the premier tool for journalists who practice CAR.This technique encompasses “anything that uses computers to aid in the news-gathering process” (Garrison, 3). Before the emergence of the modern-day Webbrowser in 1995 (The Netscape Navigator 1.0 Beta was released in October 1994 14 ),CAR was primarily limited to database analysis using word processing spreadsheetapplications such as Microsoft Excel. The U.S. Census, for example, can be data-sorted in different ways in an Excel spreadsheet. It can be downloaded and saved asa database (DBF4) file, and imported into GIS software, such as ESRI’s ArcGIS. It isthen possible to examine U.S. Census information laid out visually on a map.14
  10. 10. 7The layering component in GIS software offers another dynamic to U.S. Census studiesby making it possible to create multiple layers of information on one map. ArcGIS uses “shapefiles” (.shp) that contain a visual image and a data table.Shapefiles are comprised of at least three required files: .shp (the visual image); .dbf(the data table), and .shx (the index file). Other file types that are commonlyincorporated are: .prj (projection definition); .xml (meta data description); .iag(geocoding index); and graphic info (Hutchinson, 6-7). After building the basic layers of a map, by importing the TIGER(Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) files 15 constitutingthe streets, counties, cities, and bodies of water for the state or region involved,database (DBF4) files can be “joined” as additional layers. For example, it ispossible to add multiple databases to these files. To illustrate the relative ease of use and flexibility of this software, let megive a brief demonstration: If I were to write an article on the location of seniorcommunity centers in Los Angeles County in relation to where citizens over the ageof 65 reside, I would first download census data from the U.S. Census Bureau 16 . Iwould save the census tract for L.A. County population sorted by age and open it inMicrosoft Excel. I would then delete the columns containing men and women under65 and then would add a column to compute the percentages of the remaining age15
  11. 11. 8 17groups. I could also download the same information as thematic map files. I canconvert information available on Los Angeles County Senior Citizen Center Website 18 into a database (DBF4) file using Excel and import that into ArcGIS as well. By setting four gradations (by percent of total), I can color code the L.A.County municipalities based on concentration of seniors. I can identify the locationof the senior centers with large dots and the map would detail the story — seniorcommunity centers tend to be located far from areas with concentrated populationsof seniors. Additional geospatial data and information are available at the U.S. GeospatialOne-Stop. 194. Use of GIS-based Maps in the News Flat, two-dimensional graphic maps have been integrated into television andprint news for decades. Since the growth of Internet-based news Web sites in the1990s, the use of three-dimensional satellite images and enhanced interactive mapshas added value to many sites. But the cost of production and of GIS applicationshad often been prohibitive; the technical knowledge and time necessary to produceintegrated maps required skilled professionals, time, and editors with the vision tocommit resources to them.17
  12. 12. 9 With the rich dynamic capabilities of ArcGIS and other, more simplified GISapplications, journalists can now produce provocative, eye-grabbing, and effectiveexposés and informative pieces using public data made available by the U.S. CensusBureau and other resources. While the hand of a graphics artist is always welcome in thenewsroom, much of this technology is now within the capabilities of a tech-savvyreporter. The GIS graphics now become an important and relatively inexpensiveand rapid way for a news organization to enhance and complement text, whether on aWeb site or in print. For example, the rich use of color gradation and 3-D elements in the San JoseMercury News’ 1998 coverage of housing development in landslide areas of SantaCruz County not only educated readers to the local topography and geography, butalso revealed years of controversial land use and development (Herzog, 79-90). TheSanta Cruz study, like others described in David Herzog’s 2003 book Mapping theNews, would have involved a newspaper’s CAR editor or otherwise IT-specializedemployee. But Herzog’s succession of examples of GIS projects in variousnewsrooms makes it clear that GIS and satellite mapping are still in their infancy. Ineach of Herzog’s examples, we discover that the researchers and reporters involvedusually learned more about GIS applications “on the fly” as they assembled theirnews projects.
  13. 13. 10 GIS is a very effective tool in enhancing political stories. In Mapping theNews, Herzog summarized the Washington Post’s excellent GIS work in theaftermath of the 2000 election, which confirmed that the majority of discarded votesin the decisive state of Florida were in districts containing higher populations ofblacks. Following the 2004 election, Rolling Stone supplemented environmentallawyer and Air America radio host Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s four-month investigationinto possible election fraud with a Web-only collection of additional resources andGIS-enriched graphics 20 . The New York Times created a Google map documenting three years of its“36 Hours” columns. Clicking on a placemark in each American city leads to anarchived column detailing a weekend itinerary 21 . This seamless blend of image andtext was created by Faneuil Media 22 , founded by Rick Burnes, a New York Timesjournalist who recently quit writing for the paper to focus on “fusing mapping anddata” technologies for online publication (Burnes). In February 2007, Faneuil Medialaunched its own tool, Atlas, a Web application that enables Internet users at alllevels to create maps. Other new open-source Web applications enable other companies to createvisualizations. Cartifact specializes in commercial real estate. Their primary clientsare Wall Street types who want detailed maps of commercial real estate and what’s20
  14. 14. 11around them for spatial consistency, according to lead developer Eric Richardson.Cartifact’s contributions to online journalism include a detailed map of DowntownNews Development Map 23 , and the Downtown LA Homeless map 24 , created usingopen-source tools including VTBuilder 25 and Surfit 26 . Although maps can be manipulated in many ways, they are theoreticallyunbiased representations of geographic reality. Many GIS professionals anticipatemedia interest and, for example, follow news feeds on floods around the world;researchers then go out and scour for images to go with those stories 27 (Lauriault).The data and images are then sold to the media to put into context. The imagery can play an important role in molding public discourse. WhenThomas Friedman published the 2005 bestseller The World is Flat, Richard Floridawas quick to criticize Friedman’s analysis, using 3-D maps to demonstrate that whileglobalization has changed the socioeconomic face of the world, it has hardly“leveled” the playing field, as Friedman argued (Florida — see Appendix 1).5. Interactivity, Google Maps, and Mashups During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, CNN began using Keyhole, Inc.’s 3-Dsatellite mapping technology along with Digital Globe’s image archive to providedetailed graphics of locations in Iraq and wow viewers with the sensation that theywere flying over and into, for example, Baghdad’s Green Zone.23
  15. 15. 12Use of Keyhole’s software was costly, yet the company gained a following from theexposure it received from the “provided by” attribution stamped oneach TV or Internet graphic. In 2005, when Google purchased Keyhole andincorporated its satellite database into Google Maps, a phenomenon was born andsatellite mapping technologies, once referred to simply as GIS, became user-friendlyand affordable and took on a new, popularizing role for an eager and growingaudience. Since the 2005 public rollout of Google Maps and then Google Earth desktopgeo-viewer, or virtual globe 28 , dramatic changes have occurred in GIS. It is now aseasy to create a custom map online as it is to open an online bank account. This isdue to a confluence of developments, such as the rapid mass-marketization ofGoogle’s brand and the adoption of similar technologies by Microsoft and Yahoo!.This occurred in concert with prolific innovation by hobbyists and newsprofessionals utilizing Application Programming Interfaces (API). An API is theinterface that a computer, data library, or application provides in order to enable thesharing or exchange of data with other computer programs 29 . This, in turn, has fitwell with the open-source spirit of sharing in the Internet community. The “mashup” — a term originally used to describe the phenomenon inpopular music of combining aspects of two different songs to create a dance floor hit —is a Web-based combination of data or content from different sources to create anew service or application. (The June 2006 Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:28 SPACE definition: TechWeb Encyclopedia:
  16. 16. 13 30“a mixture or fusion of disparate elements”). The expanding pool of mashups — at first,geocoded data and resources and applications to implement into Google Maps — andmore recently, Google Earth Network Links made available at the Google EarthCommunity bulletin board 31 (geocoded enhancements, placemarks, and plug-ins,generally marked with the extension .kml or .kmz), has led to the creation anddevelopment of abundant mashup graphics, in print and online. More recently, Internet developer Adrian Holovaty, who became anovernight legend with his mashup of Chicago crime histories in a Google Map 32and is now the director of editorial innovations for Washingtonpost.NewsweekInteractive, has generated comprehensive and highly sortable databases ofCongressional voting patterns 33 .6. Google Earth, Geotagging, 3-D and Movement Of the 3-D mapping and virtual globe applications released in recent years,Google Earth is the most advanced and most popular (as of June 2006, at least30,000 developers use the Google API, and there have been over 100 milliondownloads of the Google Earth desktop application, according to John Hanke,Google Earth and Maps product director 34 ). While the common user downloads forthe entertainment of being able to zoom in to birds-eye satellite views of his or her houseand neighborhood from mere meters above, this often entices viewers to investigate30 http://chicagocrime.org33
  17. 17. 14new perspectives. Many casual users become engaged with a technology that enablesdifferent angles and views of -3D city- and landscapes and the ability to “fly around”the virtual world. As the Internet thrives as an archive, it also offers many GoogleEarth users an advantage by bookmarking — or placemarking — events, sites, andphotos with geospatial encoding for others to access and utilize on their computers.In fact, over 1,000 customized datasets and applications have been spawned andlaunched into the public domain, as aggregated by ProgrammableWeb. 35 More applications are launching that enable the simple geo-coding of data,including text, images and video using the industry standard Geographic MappingLanguage (GML) 36 , often seen as “KML” or Keyhole Markup Language, referring tothe Keyhole, Inc. application that became Google Earth. This application isinteroperably readable by Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, Yahoo! Maps, andother Web client mapping applications. GeoRSS 37 converts standard locationcoordinates into code for maps in the news, and this code is archived at Web sites such asMetaCarta 38 . MetaCarta’s geo-text search and geotagging products have led toprojects including GutenKarte, which analyze words in books made available byProject Gutenberg to map out the places in a story -- for example, Tolstoy’s War and Peace 39 .35
  18. 18. 15 Immersive animation and 3-D rendering are becoming increasingly popularonline. While massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) often encourage notonly 3-D character interaction and manipulation, but movement as well, SecondLife 40 is one open-ended, 3-D virtual world that has become both its own globalmicro-economy and an online conglomerate of islands between which users can“fly.” The BBC purchased an island in Second Life in Ma, 2006 41 , to offerhundreds of people the opportunity to experience a virtual simulcast of the One BigWeekend event (see screenshots 42 ). Also in May 2006, the USC Center on PublicDiplomacy hosted hundreds on a multimedia-rich island in Second Life for its PublicDiplomacy in Virtual Worlds 43 Awards presentation (see screenshots 44 ). Onlinephoto storage sites Zoomr 45 and Flickr 46 encourage users to geotag photos, andseveral applications are available to “fly over” photos based on their geocodedinformation in Google Earth.7. Privacy and Accessibility As GIS becomes a mainstream tool of news publications, including broadcastand online news sites, and by extension, their mass audiences, considerable issues ofefficiency, accuracy, and accessibility arise — as well as privacy and ethics regardingvisual integrity.40
  19. 19. 16Not unlike humans, computers have their flaws, and since GIS began rapidlyexpanding into the mainstream follow,ing the 2005 release of new, free virtual globeapplications such Google Earth, the sensitivity of information made available —along with the ability of maps to “lie” — has become a growing concern. For national security reasons, no government allows public use of real-timehigh-definition satellite imagery. But even use of archived images, such as those nowavailable for free on Google Earth, spark controversy as they can expose secretmilitary installations, residences of public officials and arguably impinge upon theright to privacy. The Cryptome Web site 47 is home to an archive of controversial andbanned documents and images. Since 1996, Cryptome has collected 35,000 files,including The Eyeball Series 48 , a large index of detailed birds-eye satellite maps andimages of international military installations, missile launch sites, and residences ofworld leaders. Cryptome welcomes documents for publication that are prohibited by governments worldwide, in particular material on freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and secret governance — open, secret and classified documents — but not limited to those. 49 These detailed satellite maps reveal the private residences of, for example,Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and President George W. Bush’s CrTexas, ranch property, as well as international sites of significance such as NorthKorea’s July 2006 missile test launch site and Guantanamo Bay.47 http://www.cryptome.org48 Retrieved August 8, 2006.
  20. 20. 17 Governments worldwide have expressed concern about Google Earthregarding privacy and national security issues. In the immediate aftermath of theAugust 2005 landfall of Hurricane Katrina, a collaboration of scientists teamed withGoogle to form Global Connection and pooled resources to provide near real-timeaerial and satellite images of New Orleans that could be incorporated into GoogleEarth and Maps. 50 But that October, after a devastating earthquake struck Kashmir,relief organizations were denied access to high-resolution satellite images in thename of national security (Butler, 2005). In 2005, after Taiwan complained aboutbeing referred to as a province of China in Google Earth, the Chinese mediaresponded with rumors of a possible boycott of Google’s China service 51 . Since2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Working Group of the U.S.Federal Data Graphic Committee has proposed and repeatedly revised guidelines forthe distribution and identification of geospatial data sets containing potentiallysensitive information (Lesk). The committee’s most recent “DHS Geospatial DataModel,” published in May 2006, is over 400 pages in length. 52 While the U.S. government makes most geospatial information publiclyavailable, European national mapping agencies have historically prohibited or highlyregulated access and licensing of geodata. 5350
  21. 21. 18 Where Americans have open access to a glut of government-providedgeospatial data and satellite imagery, GIS and information professionals in theEuropean Union are battling for public access and open-sourcing of such crucialelements to the development and proliferation of the information infrastructure. “The potential for open-source GIS is amazing,” according to Open SourceGeospatial Foundation Director Jo Walsh, “but there’s a gaping disparity in differentcountries regarding geodata in the public domain” (Walsh).To this end, Walsh and others have proposed a “Spatial Data Infrastructure” thatcalls for open sharing of government-collected geodata in a “standard, commonformat.” 548. Emerging Concepts in Interactive Online Maps In recent years, newspapers have accounted for a loss of revenue fromclassified advertising to online listing services such as, eBay, andonline Realtors. But it is becoming clear to some newspapers that the tools are inplace — provided they have the necessary data — for them to retain their position at the top of theclassified industry. Several newspaper Web sites have begun implementing Google-maps technology into both their classified functions and elsewhere. But their initialefforts have been largely tentative and flawed.54
  22. 22. 19While special-edition, topic-specific interactive maps such as the New York Times’(Appendix A) are the most successful and consistent, too many online news maps are one-offMacromedia Flash productions in which the high-tech aesthetics outweigh the qualityand accuracy of the information presented (Lauriault). Efforts by some news organizations show great promise. As dynamic HTMLhas become standard and the speed of computer processors and broadbandconnections allows for the quick downloading of information, many newspaper sitesare incorporating rollover content — which displays after the user-controlledmouse’s arrow or cursor rolls over an area of content — into map placemarks, images,and even text. In April 2006, The Washington Post launched an online version of itsfree Express tabloid with a focus on classified ads and hyper-local features a “MetroLinks” guide, encouraging the user to search forhotels, events, news, and restaurants by clicking on a Metro stop and also highlightsblog postings from the area 55 . Bowling Green’s Kentucky Daily News uses a “mashup” of Google Maps andYahoo!’s geo-coding to provide an enhanced, interactive map of yard sales, updatedevery Thursday 56 . The Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Daily News Journal uses a searchengine powered by to allow its users to map out their search of areahomes for sale by location, price, and number of bathrooms. 5755
  23. 23. 20After selecting from a detailed list of available houses, users can even prioritize theirselections to produce customized directions. Satellite imagery and interactive maps are redefining how the housing andreal estate market is perceived and presented., launched in February2006 and powered by Microsoft Virtual Earth mapping technology, offers a freemodel enabling users to not only visually plot real estate of differing valuations on amap, but also to conduct 3-D interactive tours of different properties. 58 The Beta site isapproaching its goal of enabling buyers, sellers, and owners to access free valuationsof nearly every property in the United States and offers color-coded “heat maps” ofneighborhood values in 17 cities. In response to popular interest and in the spirit ofopen-source and “the long tail,” in late July 2006, Zillow promised to allow for thebroad incorporation of its data on other Web applications through the use of an OpenAPI. 59 Similar mapping technology, combined with location-based advertising, has apromising future in the online news medium. As long as the data exists, it can bemashed up in Google Maps, just as HousingMaps produces a visualization of listingson Craigslist 60 . With the help of the multitude of APIs and Web-based applications poweredby advanced Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth technology, the GIS map ofL.A. County Senior Community Centers could be easily replicated without requiringArcGIS or other professional-grade GIS software.58
  24. 24. 21An Excel or text file of community centers can be imported, or manually enteredand instantly geocoded using free programs such as Batch Geocode. 61 The savedgeocoded data can then be mapped, or plotted out and designed using free onlinemake-your-own mashup applications such as Platial 62 or Mapbuilder 63 .9. GIS, Maps, and Interactivity in the Future At this point in its development, GIS and mapping technology gets a mixedreception from media analysts. Mike Liebhold, a senior researcher at the Institute forthe Future, sees the general public as lukewarm or still reluctant to embraceinteractive multimedia maps in online news.“We are just on the cusp of development of some great new mapping tools that holdgreat promise for geo news blogging and geo journalism” (Liebhold). Investigation into GIS technology supports this view. However, consideringthe today’s youth’s growing comfort with emerging technology, it is possible thatmany of the finest educational tools in the future, for kindergartners through adults,will be rendered with the help of GIS research. For example, imagine learning aboutclimate change using a three-dimensional globe with color-coded, historicallyaccurate data projected onto it. In the near future, elementary schools may have largeinteractive globes, or even flat plasma maps that translate historical data andgeological evolution theories into visual representations.61
  25. 25. 22Plot the known existence of Homo sapiens 5,000 years ago on a map of the worldconsistent with the geography of the era. Watch carbon content in the atmosphererise at the start of agriculture, the Industrial Revolution, and the growth of the economiesof China and India. Mash that up with historical temperature records. And so on,unleashing the imagination of students to create their own images based on satellitemaps and possibly real-time data. Most importantly, the technology gives students control of future scenarios.Assume Antarctica ice melts in the future. Assume it doesn’t. What does the world looklike according to each scenario? What should it look like? Even watch the world’sweather over the course of the past 30 days on a spinning globe, over the course of 60seconds. Then, use the interactive model to manipulate world climate patterns andsee how they affect today’s weather or the weather 20 years from now. I can attest to the breakthrough era of the early 1980s, when, as a youngstudent, the Tandy/RadioShack TRS-80 computers were left to rot and suddenly, thebrilliant map/geography-based game “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego,”became the coolest game to play in the Apple IIe-filled computer lab. As kids andyoung adults continue to spend more and more time on a variety of “connected”media, as opposed to in front of the TV, the prospect for visual and interactivereporting, teaching, and learning is blossoming. Healthy competition between free virtual globes such as Google Earth andcomplete GIS desktop applications such as ESRI (which retails for $1,400) isaccelerating the capabilities and accessibility of geospatial map production for news
  26. 26. 23as well as the possibilities in GIS research and education. The concept of a “digitalEarth” announced in 1998 by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore envisioned thevirtual use of “the Earth itself as an organizing metaphor for digital information. 64 ”Twenty-five years ago, the personal computer democratized computing, and 10 years ago theWeb browser liberated the Internet. “So systems like Google Earth will democratizeGIS,” suggests Michael Goodchild, GIS expert at the University of California,Santa Barbara (Butler, 2006).10. Conclusion With the widespread penetration of broadband technology — and freemainstream software such as the Adobe Flash player 65 — the public is not interestedin simply a graphical rendering of an Excel (or Google) spreadsheet on a map. Thepublic wants to see it in motion. Better yet, the audience wants to control itspossibilities. Furthermore, as broadband, high-speed Internet access growsworldwide and broadband speeds multiply, the audience reach for interactive, highlydynamic multimedia presentations will increase exponentially. No fewer than 42 percentof Americans have high-speed Internet access at home and nearly 50 millionAmericans have created their own content on the Internet, according to the 2006Technology and Media Use Study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. 6664
  27. 27. 24While the public has grown to trust the media and the government less and less,news organizations can build links to their audiences by making it easier for anyoneto mash up their own GIS projects given the tools and information. Therefore, therole of online journalists may be not so much to provide answers as to offer the newsaudience the tools and direction to reach multiple conclusions.The infusion of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) into many mobile phones andautomobile dashboards caters to an increasing dependence on automated real-timemaps. For some occupations, such as taxi drivers, these devices have becomeessential to their work and at increasingly reasonable prices. New applications suchas Mapbuilder, OpenLayers, Atlas, and Platial make it simple for users of handheldor portable devices to plug in data or upload databases and create an enhanced mapusing available geospatial data and mapping applications and technology. In August2006, Sony released a small GPS device that attaches to a digital camera andrecords the exact geo-location of every photo, allowing the photos to be immediatelymapped upon uploading (Sony). Photo-sharing and storage Web sites, such asFlickr and Zoomr, by tapping into the open source Yahoo! Maps developer kit 67 ,Google Maps’ API tools developer kits 68 , or using mashup Web sites such asMappr 69 , are influencing the popularity of photo-geotagging and visualization on aVirtual Earth interface such as Google Earth.67
  28. 28. 25 While data is constantly amassing on the Internet, it’s not merely the value ofmapping visualization that increases, but for the online journalist and consumer,what also increases is simply the access to knowledge, data, and the increasing simplicity with whichvarious data sets can be examined. “Satellite imagery is just another set of data likecampaign finance data or legislative data,” said Faneuil Media founder Rick Burnes,insinuating that 3-D visualizations and interactive mapping imagery are only onesmall part of a larger information revolution. At the same time, journalists and media organizations in general have beenslow to pick up on new technologies, according to Adrian Holovaty, editor ofeditorial innovations at the Washington Post. Essentially there may never be onewithout the other. “…[T]here should be human edited account of what’s happeningin the world and then a more granular method of browsing the raw information — itshould be hand in hand,” says Holovaty. “Technology is now making it easier to do this with searchable databases,interactive maps, news games or exercises, vlogs, podcasts, photo galleries and easyto use content management systems,” says Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-lab:The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland (Schaffer).As citizen journalism continues to advance considerably in terms of both mainstreamacceptance and production, especially with regard to multimedia content, theincrease in interactivity involving mapping is sure to follow.
  29. 29. Bibliography“Aristotle.” (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 8, 2006, fromEncyclopædia Britannica Online:, Pablo J. Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers. MITPress, Cambridge, MA 2004.Burnes, Rick, journalist and founder, Faneuil Media online publishing company. viae-mail, August 2006, via telephone March 2007Butler, Declan. “Quake aid hampered by ban on web shots,” Nature. vol. 437, pp.1072-3, 20 October 2005. Accessed August 2006 via, Declan. “Virtual globes: The web-wide world.” Nature. vol. 439, pp. 776-778, 16 February 2006. Accessed August 2006 via, Marc, et al. Using Context and Similarity for Face and LocationIdentification” School of Information Management and Systems, U.C. Berkeley, CA2006. Accessed August 6 via, Schuyler, Rich Gibson and Jo Walsh. Mapping Hacks: Tips & Tools forElectronic Cartography. O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA, 2005.Florida, Richard. “THE WORLD IN NUMBERS — The World Is Spiky,” TheAtlantic. October 2005, pp. 48-52.Garrison, B. (1998). Computer-assisted reporting, (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: LawrenceErlbaum Associates.Garrison, Bruce. “Computer-assisted reporting near complete adoption.” NewspaperResearch Journal, Winter 2001. accessed August 2, 2006 via, Dan, founder and director, Center for Citizen Media, via e-mail, July-August 2006. dan.gillmor@citmedia.orgGlick, Jeff. “When, How to Tell Stories With Text, Multimedia. Poynter Eyetrack2004. Accessed August 2006 via
  30. 30. 27Globescan. “BBC Poll: Trust in Media — Countries.” Accessed August 6, 2006 via, David. Mapping the News, ESRI Press, Redlands, CA 2003.Holovaty, Adrian, editor of editorial innovations, Washington Post.NewsweekInteractive, via telephone, March 2007.Hutchinson, Scott. Inside ArcView 8.3. Delmark Learning / Thomson, Clifton Park,NY, 2004.Horrigan, John. “Reports: Media & Technology Use — Home Broadband Adoption2006,” Pew Internet & American Life Project May 28, 2006. Accessed June 2, 2006via, Katie, “New Washington Post Local Classifieds Site to Launch Today,”Clickz, April 24, 2006. Accessed July 31 via, J.D. “Tribune Interactive.” Online Journalism Review. April 11, 2002.Accessed August 1 via, Tracey L.Interview exchange via e-mail. Project manager,Cybercartography and the New Economy Project Carleton U., Canada. Via e-mail,August 4, 2006 tlauriau@magma.caLesk, Michael, et al. “Acting Responsibly With Geospatial Data.” IEEE Security andPrivacy, November/December 2005, pp. 77-80. Accessed August 2006 via, Mike. Senior Researcher Institute for the Future. Via e-mail, August 5,2006, mnl@well.comLindh, Mat and Gunnar Misund. “Annotating Mobile Multimedia Messages WithSpaciotemporal Information,” (Faculty of Computer Science, Østfold UniversityCollege, Halden Norway 2005).The Media Center @ American Press Institute (press release). “Trust in Media.”Accessed August 6, 2006 via, Mark. How to Lie With Maps, University of Chicago Press, Chicago,1996.
  31. 31. 28Newspaper Association of America (press release). “Online Viewership Up Nearly30 Percent in Second Quarter” August 2, 2006. Accessed August 6, 2006 via, An. “The Interaction Between Technologies and Society: Lessons learntfrom 160 evolutionary years of online news services,” First Monday v. 12, no. 3,March 2007. Accessed March 16, 2007 via’Reilly, Tim. “What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the NextGeneration of Software.” 9/30/2005. accessed 7/15/2006 via, Steve and Lauren Ruel. “Observations on Multimedia Features,” EyetrackIII: Online News Consumer Behavior in the Age of Multimedia. 2004. Accessed July2006 via for Excellence in Journalism. “The State of the News Media 2006: AnAnnual Report on American Journalism.” Originally published March 13, 2006,accessed July 9, 2006 via for Excellence in Journalism. “The State of the News Media 2007: AnAnnual Report on American Journalism.” accessed March 25, 2007 via, Eric. Lead Developer, Cartifact. In Person, March 23, 2007.Schaffer, Jan, Executive Director, J-lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, viae-mail, August 7, 2006, jans@j-lab.orgSingh, Raj. “GeoBlogging: Collaborative, Peer-to-Peer Geographic InformationSharing,” URISA Public Participation in GIS 3rd Annual Conference , July 2004.Scott, Ben. “A Contemporary History of Digital Journalism,” Television & NewMedia v. 6 no. 1, pp. 89-122. February 2005..Sony Electronics News and Information. “Organize Photos by ‘Where’ not ‘When’With Global Positioning System for Sony Digital Cameras,” August 1, 2006.Szymanski, Charlie. Interview exchange via e-mail, August 3, 2006.. (co-producer ofSarasota Herald-Tribune multimedia).
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  33. 33. 30Appendix A — Visual References Maps make up 43% of the 1,746 mashups indexed at ProgrammableWeb.comThere are 404 APIs indexed at ProgrammableWeb but GoogleMaps API is used in 50% of all mashups.
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  47. 47. Mashup Guide to Red Sox Spring Training in Fort Myers, FL. By Faneuil Media.
  48. 48.’s Downtown Los Angeles Homeless visualization. Heat map of the homeless population based on data gathered biweekly.
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  53. 53. 50Appendix B — Tools for JournalistsDATALibre Maps — Free Maps and GIS Data repository: Census Bureau — Cartographic Boundary Files: Source GIS — Detailed collection of and guide to GIS resources: Globe Image Archive: Network: http://www.geographynetwork.comGeoData — Geography data and embedded GIS software from government agencyrecords: http://geodata.govMapDex — Search Geographic Data: Spatial Information Library (CASIL): California GIS-Local Government Users Group: http://www.socalgis.org2004 Home Mortgage Discovery Act: Use MicroSample Data: Gapminder: mashup tool for real estate, marketing and census visualizations -
  54. 54. 51ESRI: Industry leader in desktop GIS, maker of ArcGISMapInfo: Second in MarketCaliper: Makes Maptitude — a low cost GISGRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System): Free open-source GIS.GEO-VIEWERSGoogle Earth: WorldWind: Virtual Globe: Globes Directory: / MASHUP APPSShowMeWhere — Easily create Google Maps: — mashups made easy: — custom maps made easy: http://mapbuilder.netAtlas — by Faneuil Media: Collaborative visualizations and mashups by IBM Labs: RESOURCES / DIRECTORIESDirections Mag — The Worldwide Source for Geospatial Technology:
  55. 55. 52Programmable Web — Mashup and API repository, database: Map Room Open Source GIS Guide: Links List — for conversion, geotracking, google earth: — http://freegis.orgTOOLS / HACKS / HOW TOGoogle Earth Hacks: Flickr Photos in Google Earth: data in large batches: http://batchgeocode.comGeotagthings — for easy geotagging of data: to Geotag photos: — Text to geocode conversion: Terrain Project — “foster the creation of tools for easily constructing any partof the real world in interactive, 3D digital form.”