31 July 2019


CityLab posted a piece by Amanda Kolson Hurley that presents a little extra background on the famous Burtinsky photo of Breezewood. She tries to argue that Breezewood, PA is a remarkably unique place. In a sense I agree, since places are all unique. The specifics of the development, the adjacent hill,  But I disagree in that the famous photo of Breezewood really captures a sense of place that is not unique (see US 11 just a few miles away in Carlisle, PA). You don't have to agree completely to enjoy this piece.

Walk more

Kottke on walking.

29 July 2019

Emotional response to teaching and research

A new paper by Stupnisky, Hall, Pekrun is summarized by Inside Higher Ed. The paper takes a deeper look at the emotions of faculty engaged in teaching and research and presents findings that suggest that paying attention to the emotional state of faculty could help the university improve outcomes. For example, the article, "Professors Have Feelings, Too," suggests that tenure-track faculty might have negative feelings about research that are caused more by the tenure process than by research. Also, the paper talks about ways that collegiality is impacted by research emotions:
In terms of implications for institutions, Stupnisky found that perceived collegiality correlated with both teaching and research emotions, and perceived balance correlated specifically with research emotions. Collegiality was also a significant, direct predictor of control and value and an indirect predictor of success in both the teaching and research domains via faculty emotions.
As universities continue to evolve, this could be a valuable element to making new faculty more successful and better adjusted.

23 July 2019

News: Trees are good for the environment

Scientists have used GIS to conduct a detailed analysis to show that planting lots of trees around the world could help turn the corner on climate change. While that sounds obvious, the real surprise is the scale of the potential impact:
“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Z├╝rich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”
The research team behind this project has an interactive map online that allows users to explore the tree potential of locations around the worlds.

18 July 2019

Trendy ideas

"Apart from technology, fashion is one of the means by which young people reserve the right to torment the old."   - Chris Fleming

A new post at The Chronicle, "The Tyranny of Trendy Ideas," describes/decries a longstanding issue for academia. And, while some of the specifics are hard to translate into GIS, landscape architecture or environmental planning, the essay captures some feelings that will be familiar to many of us.

As we are confronted with new terms and ideas and theories, we have to keep evaluating them to figure out which will linger and which are little more than vapor. But, as Fleming points out, some of them turn out to be useful. If you initially ignored urban agriculture or green infrastructure when the ideas first emerged, the penalty probably wasn't that high. But even if those ideas get renamed/rebranded/redirected over the next few years, you can see that they have been very useful. And for now, they have become important threads of conversation and practice.

Maybe it is because our fields place such heavy emphasis on application, but even conversations about ephemeral issues still often seem to be useful. I remember a couple academic papers that made way too much of a popular Malcolm Gladwell book. And, while their effort capitalize on the author's popular ideas may not have been terribly meaningful, the result was a reframing of some ideas in our field that sparked real conversations about our need to re-examine the assumptions and driving forces of GIS, landscape architecture or environmental planning.

For us, I think that the warning about chasing trends is real, but the dangers might be less than other fields where dead ends seem to collect far more people.

16 July 2019

Replacing the sandbox with the virtual table?

We have had a digital sandbox for a few years. But now when someone asks what is next, I wonder if it is the virtual table. This example shows how it could be a group interactive planning scenario tool. As is common with new tools, it is hard to tell initially how much is "gee whiz" novelty and how much is genuinely engaging for exploration. But this video from Garsdale Design  is certainly intriguing.

08 July 2019

Art map

The UCGIS summer symposium in DC featured a variety of talks on the spatial humanities. So it was fascinating to see the NY Times post an interactive map of the source of the Whitney's American art, by years, that shows both how influential NYC was initially, but also how they eventually grew to be more broadly inclusive.