Day 3: I opened the day with a lovely swim with Elizabeth Havice (in the largest pool in New England? Boston? The Sheraton?) and then embarked on a multi-mile walk around the fair city of Boston. The sun was out and the wind was up, showing the historical buildings and waterfront to great advantage. The 10-year old Institute of Contemporary Art was showing in a constrained space, but it did host an incredibly moving video installation from Steve McQueen (Director of 12 Years a Slave) called “Ashes” about the life and death of a young fisherman in Grenada.
My final AAG attendance involved two plenaries hosted by the Remote Sensing Specialty Group and the GIS Specialty Group, who in their wisdom, decided to host plenaries by two absolute legends in our field – Art Getis and John Jensen – at the same time. #battleofthetitans. #gisvsremotesensing. So, I tried to get what I could from both talks. I started with the Waldo Tobler Lecture given by Art Getis: The Big Data Trap: GIS and Spatial Analysis. Compelling title! His perspective as a spatial statistician on the big data phenomena is a useful one. He talks about how data are growing fast: Every minute – 98K tweets; 700K FB updates; 700K Google searches; 168+M emails sent; 1,820 TB of data created. Big data is growing in spatial work; new analytical tools are being developed, data sets are generated, and repositories are growing and becoming more numerous. But, there is a trap. And here is it. The trap of Big Data:
10 Erroneous assumptions to be wary of:
- More data are better
- Correlation = causation
- Gotta get on the bandwagon
- I have an impeccable source
- I have really good software
- I am good a creating clever illustrations
- I have taken requisite spatial data analysis courses
- It’s the scientific future
- Accessibly makes it ethical
- There is no need to sample
He then asked: what is the role of spatial scientists in the big data revolution? He says our role is to find relationships in a spatial setting; to develop technologies or methods; to create models and use simulation experiments; to develop hypotheses; to develop visualizations and to connect theory to process.
The summary from his talk is this: Start with a question; Differentiate excitement from usefulness; Appropriate scale is mandatory; and Remember more may or may not be better.
When Dr Getis finished I made a quick run down the hall to hear the end of the living legend John Jensen’s talk on drones. This man literally wrote the book(s) on remote sensing, and he is the consummate teacher – always eager to teach and extend his excitement to a crowded room of learners. His talk was entitled Personal and Commercial Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Remote Sensing and their Significance for Geographic Research. He presented a practicum about UAV hardware, software, cameras, applications, and regulations. His excitement about the subject was obvious, and at parts of his talk he did a call and response with the crowd. I came in as he was beginning his discussion on cameras, and he also discussed practical experience with flight planning, data capture, and highlighted the importance of obstacle avoidance and videography in the future. Interestingly, he has added movement to his “elements of image interpretation”. Neat. He says drones are going to be routinely part of everyday geographic field research.
What a great conference, and I feel honored to have been part of it.