Into the big wide open: Think (twice) before you map!

A little bit from my archives which I never got around putting online before…here it comes: Last September I was invited to do a keynote at FOSS4G, OSGeo’s Global Conference for Open Source Geospatial Software. The event is the annual gathering of Open Source Geospatial Developers, Users and Leaders and was held at Nottingham’s new East Midlands Conference Centre, 17th to 21st September. The conference motto was ‘Geo for all’ because, as the organisers explain, “many people who work with geo software and maps find themselves becoming passionate advocates for the power of geography to make a difference: in government, business, travel, environment, crime reduction, social justice and communications to name just a few domains. Open Source Geo software makes this possible.
So how does a geographer, working with geospatial software but being less so a developer, address a huge crowd of people who are little reluctant to see themselves as geeks and nerds? Instead of pretending to be as clever as most of the audience I took a slightly different stance, trying to bridge the gap between those on the programming side and those on the applied side – two groups which sadly rarely speak to each other. Traditional cartographers often see their field of work undermined (and threatened) by computerised methods to generate mapping products, while coders very often find the obsession with minute detail and ‘artisan’ cartography annoying. If the two worlds would come a bit closer together, and both sides speak a bit more with each other, the world of cartography and geospatial visualisations could benefit so much more. Addressing a more technical audience, I concluded that we should all think a little bit more before we start mapping, and that we should give a good mapping project a little bit more time than we often do these days – but more importantly of course: We should never stop mapping. These are the slides of my talk, of course including many maps:

Now one may wonder about the title of the talk: I came up with it while preparing the slides when I started using references to song titles or famous lines of lyrics in the text that matched the content of a slide. I probably got carried away a bit too much and ended up with the #mappinghamsongcontest to keep those people in the audience busy who were less interested my the cartographic rants. Every slide contained at least one reference to a song, and for that person who got these as complete as possible I promised a free drink at the evening’s dinner. Although no one got all of the songs right, quite a few email responses after the talk came pretty close. So here is the full list of titles that I had in mind while preparing the slides (and all music can be listened to in the Spotify playlist ‘Into the big wide open’ – enjoy):

Tom Petty: Into the great wide open
John Lee Hooker: Think Twice before you go
Green Day: Good Riddance (Time of your life)
(Rebel without a clue: Into the great wide open)
Pearl Jam: Who you are
JJ Cale & Eric Clapton: It’s easy
Mott the Hoople: All the young dudes
Queen: All dead, all dead
The Kicks: Live fast, die young
Manic Street Preachers: The future has been here 4 ever
David Bowie: Where are we now?
Queen: Lazing on a Sunday afternoon
Hundred Reasons: Answers
John Lennon (Black Eyed Peas): Power to the people
Plain White T’s: Map of the World
Eric Clapton: Change the world
Queen: Is this the world we created?
Linkin Park: What I’ve done
Take That: Everything changes
Lionel Richie / Michael Jackson: We are the world
Edward Elgar: Land of hope and glory
Blondie: Atomic
Nat King Cole: Night Lights
The Police: So lonely
John Denver: Leaving on a jet plane
Tracy Chapman: Across the lines
Jarvis Cocker: Running the World
Robert Plant: Network news
Queens of the Stone Age: Go with the flow
Amy MacDonald: Next big thing
Jamiroquai: Deeper underground
Shakira: Rules
Travis: Why does it always rain on me?
Evanescence: Oceans
Mr. Green: Conclusion
Green Day: Wake me up when September ends
Johnny Osbourne: Never stop fighting

If you are interested in more outcomes from the conference:
A wide range of talks and presentations can now be found as video clips on YouTube. There is also an archive of slides and other material at ELOGeo.
2014 FOSS4G will be held in Portland, Oregon (USA). Nerd, geek or not – it’s certainly worth going if you are interested in geospatial software that gives you more for less money.

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