This year I was selected to represent the 2013 Big Data Social Science IGERT in the annual poster and video competition hosted by the National Science Foundation. The news came as both an honor and a challenge.

Spatial is special. Accordingly, there are many considerations that need to be made prior to and during the task of visualizing spatial data. Chief among these considerations are your goals and what it is you’re actually trying to accomplish with a map. Are you communicating results you’ve already found? Enabling users to explore the data to discover information on their own, possibly generating new hypotheses?

Last week I had a blast visiting Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. While I enjoyed the wineries and sunshine, the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers was the highlight of the trip. With so many talks on cartography, GIS, and cyber science, it was my favorite AAG conference yet.

What made AAG even more enjoyable was the acknowledgement of big data within GIS (though I’d argue we’ve all been doing “big data” for decades now).

As part of the NSF IGERT in Big Data Social Science, Pond Lab hosted a public poster session this afternoon.

A total of eleven different posters were presented, covering topics in big data that ranged from text processing and visualizing uncertainty to computing voter sentiment and analyzing data of patients’ heart rates.

I presented work on a GeoVISTA project that leverages geovisual analytics and Twitter to help users make sense of the spatiotemporal variation of place and topic mentions within hundreds of millions of tweets.

I had the pleasure of being invited to talk about mapping tools at the Hacking Science Hands on Sessions, led by professor and tech enthusiast Marcel Salathé.

“Mapping tools” is a pretty broad topic and it’s impossible to cover the whole scope of cartography, GIScience, and the suite of existing software in a single hour. So I took attendants on a whirlwind tour of tools, both open source and not, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each.