The Third GeoDesign Summit Focuses on Creating Our Future

by Matt Ball on January 5, 2012

Jack Dangermond kicked off the 2012 GeoDesign Summit, by giving credit to his old professor Carl Steinitz who contributed the seed to the GeoDesign concept and process. Dangermond said that the concept of GeoDesign has real steam, that is spreading and growing in academic circles as well as in practice in many disciplines.

Dangermond marveled at that the broad diversity of the field of GeoDesign, reaching beyond just classic design across all of society. Our world is changing rapidly, the consequences are frightening, and society is being challenged at large. It’s hard to get a handle on all of these issues, and Dangermond related a recent comment that President Bill Clinton made at the Eye on Earth Summit that all of these broad discussions of global change may not matter. Clinton’s point is that the dedication to projects, and doing real work is what’s important. Jack said that GeoDesign is really about building and creating things that have an impact.

The web helps speed this process by allowing for greater collaboration to create better understanding. The thing we need to do is link the information to the design process so that we can create sustainable designs that reach into the future.

GeoDesign is not just a concept, it can be thought of as a process to measure, model, interpret, create plans, measure impacts and influence decisions. GeoDesign is an evolution where we connect the dots and understand the connections. It will range across all fields, from agriculture to urban planning and other infrastructure disciplines.

GIS technology is right in step with these changes, with cloud computing making the enormous and increasing amounts of data accessible. Sharing information is affecting science, and how we approach science, making it more collaborative and inclusive. As the trends co-evolve for an interactive and multi-dimensional GIS, we have a chance to link together human action and science.

The GIS on the Web or Cloud GIS is an amazing change that has been happening the past few years, to share information through interactive Web maps and enable those that view the map to share their own perspective. Instead of formal data models, there’s a more flexible pattern where all the information is made available to us.

Intelligent Web maps are a new medium that supports sketching and interaction, with live links and dynamic data flow. The pattern synthesizes and integrates information from multiple sources in real time, cutting time to decision, and breaking down barriers between different disciplines and teams.

A problem to this change is that many maps are effectively designed to communicate. Most document what is so, but don’t communicate a story very well. Geo-information products require good design, with analysis, synthesis and communication in mind.

Good geo-information products are:
timely – with tsunami forecasts doing the job in Hawaii to help understand pending impacts
disseminate knowledge – in Fukushima a map showed that while a four-mile radius was evacuated, the pattern of radiation was more linear, unfortunately this realization was after the impact
communicate importance – where conservation supports biodiversity
support decision making – the location of wind turbines or drilling for oil
illustrate change – climate change
show status or situational awareness – where government expenditures go and are needed
can design the future – where plans can be articulated and used to drive broad initiatives

Jack closed by saying that the lack of time that we spend designing maps is a current issue he has, stating that we need to spend more time creating information products that tell good stories. It’s not just the technology that enables the work, it’s the time spent designing the maps that translates into action.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Thierry_G January 6, 2012 at 5:35 am

Great post – an excellent intro on geodesign. It also prompted me to update my post on creativity in geodesign. Creativity is core to design but still seems to be lacking in some geo-decision-making processes:

Kind regards,

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