27 Aug

AGS at the International Geographic Union (IGU) Conference in Moscow, Russia!


From left: Dr. Schwartz, Dr. Murphy, and Dr. Tucker

AGS Councilors Dr. Lee Schwartz (Geographer of the United States), Dr. Alexander B. Murphy (Professor, University of Oregon) and Dr. Christopher Tucker (Founder, MapStory Foundation) traveled to Moscow, Russia to attend and speak at the 2015 International Geographical Union (IGU) Regional Conference August 17th- 21st.

Dr. Murphy, who is a leading academic expert on the political, cultural, and environmental geography of Europe, gave a plenary address on “Coping With a Fast-Changing World: Opportunities and Challenges for Geography.”. In his address, Dr. Murphy outlined important ways in which geographical research can contribute to addressing a wide array of contemporary challenges (environmental, socioeconomic, geopolitical, etc.)- drawing in part on  a National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council report Dr. Murphy chaired (see http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12860/understanding-the-changing-planet-strategic-directions-for-the-geographical-sciences).

In his address, Dr. Murphy stated, ” “The rapid, far-reaching political, social, and environmental changes shaping our planet in the early decades of the twenty-first century make geographical understanding and analysis more important than ever.  If geography is to play an increasingly constructive role in these difficult times, however, it will be important for geographers to make more active efforts to combat simplistic conceptions of the discipline on the part of the general public and to develop research agendas that cut across traditional topical and methodological divides.  Meeting the former challenge requires efforts not just to write and speak in ways that can reach broader audiences; it also requires being explicit about what is lost if geographical conceptions, ideas, and techniques are marginalized.  On the research front, some of the most important questions of our time lie at the intersection of traditional domains of geographic practice.  Bridging the political and the environmental, for example, is essential to understanding the changing face of global conflict–as is working across the quantitative-qualitative divide.”

Later in the day, both Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Tucker jointly presented for the plenary session “Changing the Map: Future Visions of Virtual Maps”. This session included Professor Melinda Laituri of Colorado State University, and Jefferson Science Fellow at the Department of State’s Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) and AGS Councilor Dr. Christopher K. Tucker who is the creator of MapStory.org.  Dr. Schwartz provided an overview of the investments that his office has made in virtual maps that support various forms of participatory mapping, particularly those that bring together the humanitarian and international development communities for the purposes of local capacity building.  These included the MapGive effort (www.mapgive.state.gov), their Imagery to the Crowd effort, and deployments of various project specific GeoNodes (www.geonode.org).  Professor Laituri built on his presentation with a focus on the HIU’s “Secondary Cities” project, that she leads for GOTUS, defining such cities as the many 500,000-5M person, fast growing cities that are not primary or capital cities.  She explained the methodology driving the effort, beginning with remotely sensed mapping data characterizing urban change, leveraging crowd-sourced mapping data such as OpenStreetMap and MapStory.org by locals and remote mappers, and further leveraging local participatory mappers as on-the-ground teams in order to densify feature attributes that support applications of emergency preparedness, disaster response, and urban resilience.

As Geographer of the United States, Dr. Schwartz holds the position of the Director of the Office of he Geographer and Global Issues in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He bears the statutory responsibility for providing guidance to all federal agencies on questions of international boundaries and sovereignty claims. Dr. Tucker is the creator is MapStory.org, the atlas of change that everyone can edit. MapStory, as a companion to Wikipedia, is a new dimension to the global data commons that empowers people to organize and share their knowledge about the world spatially and temporally.



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