Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The end/beginning

I started this blog last summer as a place to hash out ideas for my thesis and deliberate a bit about some of the (farming/food/informatics/cartography) context for my work. I defended my dissertation three weeks ago and received extremely positive feedback from my readers - all of whom encouraged me to pursue the project further and push for government implementation. Unfortunately, contact with the relevant EU branch, as well as the Valencian agriculture ministry, has not proven to be very fruitful. I wonder if I might not be better off ditching the quality label slant and using the Farm2.0 framework to build a site for my beloved grocery cooperative, Wheatsville. If the job hunt I'm embarking upon proves half as bleak as everyone has warned me it will be, I might have a lot of free time on my hands...

In any case, I'll conclude my proto-geo posts with the extended version of the final presentation I gave at my defense. (I took out some of the farming material at the beginning to meet my 20 minute time limit.) Cheers!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009

diagrams & screenshots

Abridged for my favorite, brilliant dyslexics (who proudly abstain from reading)...Thesis in pictures.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ta da!

Whew. I've had a pretty intense couple of weeks pulling my thesis together, but amidst all the writing I was finally able to put the finishing touches on my site:
alimentaValencia.
For non-Spanish speakers, a quick tour:
Each product has a page.
There are recipes.
There are vendors.
(& if you register you can add recipes & vendors)
And there's the map.

Here's the rationale behind it all & a description of what's happening:
Denominacion de Origen or Indicacion Geografica are the Spanish version of EU quality labels that denote products from a specific place/made with specific ingredients/made by traditional methods. While Spain was the first country in Europe to implement quality labels (a wine in 1932), it wasn't until 1992 that the EU created an international schema for regulation as part of their rural development initiatives. These labels help producers in rural areas add value to their products, thereby helping local economies, creating jobs, and preventing rural depopulation. In Spain, each autonomous community regulates its own subsection of DO and IG products. Unfortunately, the regulatory organizations are poorly funded and lack efficient institutional structure, so product promotion is sparse. In addition, they do not have access to human resources with a high degree of technical expertise, and while many have *lovely* websites like this, there is no centralized source of Valencian product info geared toward consumers. That's where alimentaValencia theoretically comes in.
The site provides a central information resource to which users can contribute. Utilization of a web map is logical since the idea of quality being put forward is one that is intrinsically linked to place. (Of course, it also helps consumers find vendors.)
Beyond adding farms, stores, and informal vendors (people frequently sell produce in small quantities out of their homes in urban areas) to the map, users can add location to recipes as well so that they can be browsed from the map.
Management of the site can easily be shared between the various regulators through user-levels that I've set up on the administrative side. That way, each regulator could oversee content added for their products - and of course add it themselves. The Wordpress administration panel is super-user friendly, and is localized to Spanish.
When a user adds a location or recipe to the map, it essentially functions as a blog post in that an object is added to the RSS feed and any subscribers will be notified immediately. Furthermore, since the site is available as GeoRSS, all of its data can be aggregated in other web maps, e.g. in Google Maps or an independent mash-up map. So the city of Alicante could feed the data onto their tourist map, etc. I've got a KML (for Google Earth) export working as well, but I'd like to refine it at some point and try to get custom markers in.
There's some Web2.0 fun thrown in for good measure: Feeds of Flickr photos with tags relating to food or nature can be turned on as map layers (zoom out to see them all). I also got all of the gorgeous photos for my product pages from the Flickr Creative Commons. And to enable that wisdom-of-the-crowds phenomenon, users can rate and comment on recipes and vendors (I would have liked to add a browse-by-rating option, but didn't have time). Users can also tag content as they create it, but I didn't exploit the folksonomy-classification area as much as I could have/should have.
Finally, it is built using free, open-source technologies and could, with few modifications, be extended for use in any other Spanish region to promote other products. The whole thing could be installed on another server, and after replacing the icons and category names (plus a couple API keys) it could be ready to go somewhere else.

Phew! If you read that far, you're excused from looking my thesis.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Not another one

Top-10 lists in magazines drive me crazy. Most of the time they strike me as an editorial cop-out to justify republishing old content or creating unsubstantial, if pretty, layouts. Additionally, the fact that they're usually thinly veiled advertisements (Must haves!) doesn't help matters. But online lists, sparing trees and armed with hypertext, are less offensive and much more functional.
My favorite so far is short and sweet, Flowing Data's 5 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year. I appreciate the range of applications they've selected: The hugely popular blogger favorite Wordle gets honorable mention, while two geo-driven projects place first (Britain From Above) and fourth (House of Cards). I think steamgraphs are one of the most innovative data visualizations, graphically speaking, since sparklines. I hadn't even seen the Obama-Clinton regression tree, undoubtedly because I was distracted by the Sarah Palin flow chart. Finally, second place goes to Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar who use data visualization as means to a purely artistic end. An earlier piece of theirs, We Feel Fine, was critiqued in the article I mentioned in November.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"archives"

I have been looking for an excuse to work with Blueprint for a while now, and putting up my old posts seemed as good a reason as any.
Also, much thanks to Yummy FTP for the student discount. Their speedy Remote Editing feature is a godsend these days.
They're pretty, they're pink...Check it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Global flights

Having spent an unexpectedly lovely (no kidding) 25 hours in planes and airports on Saturday, this beautiful visualization is particularly poignant:
Video Shows Every Flight on Earth in 72 Seconds

Safe travels!