23 :: The Allied Media Conference and Maps

On Friday, I crossed the border into Detroit to take part in one day of the Allied Media Conference: “a collaborative laboratory of media-based organizing strategies for transforming our world”.  And I was transformed.

A couple experiences I’d like to note. First was the session I attended called “Using Everyday Research to Get Data” which featured speakers from the Public Science Project, the Open Technologies Institute, and the MIT Civic Data Design Project  – which in particular, has been doing some very interesting mapping work.  I enjoyed all the separate presentations very much but was particular impressed around the pedagogy of MIT’s City Digits project.

Local Lotto started with a Freedom of Information Act Request for all the lottery ticket sales and winnings in a geocoded format for New York City.  As Sarah Williams, the director of the project explained, the value of such a project is not that it produces original scholarly research, but that it allows students to experience their city with curiosity, data, and stories through journalism:

We are building geo-spatial technologies, that enable students to explore their city with the purpose of collecting data they bring back to the formal classroom and use as part of their mathematics lessons. This place-based orientation helps students connect their everyday and school mathematical thinking. Researchers are investigating the impact of place-based learning on students’ attitudes, beliefs, and self-concepts about mathematics in urban schools.

The tools used in Local Lotto included: WordPress (check), Google Fusion Tables (check) and Form Assembly for it’s ability to add geolocation into webforms, which proved useful when students were interviewing citizens and retailers in the field.

I also want to share a couple of insights I picked up as I hung out at the Data Viz section of the AMC Disco-tech Lab.  I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t properly introduce myself to the person who told me that he had helped out making the maps for the AMC website, and that I never properly caught his name. But he did tell me this:  he used MapBox’s TileMill and he sung it high praises.

He also gave me the first explanation that made sense to me why node.js is evidently such a big deal without getting into technical details involving websockets. He said that, as a web developer who works in JavaScript, node.js allows him to plug into a JavaScript backend of a noSQL database made also from JSON and JavaScript, either in the form of CouchDB or MongoDB.  So it’s not surprising he approved of my concentration on JavaScript mastery.



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