Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Russia-Ukraine War Map Batch Three - Cartoon and Humorous Maps

Russia-Ukraine War Map Batch One - The Opening Moves in Crimea
Russia-Ukraine War Map Batch Two - Russia Reestablishing New Russia

The Russia-Ukraine War has reached the world of cartoon cartographers (as did the French-Islamst War, Russia-Georgia War, and the Libyan War).

Cartoon and humorous maps of the Ukrainian of conflict have been floating around on the internet for a while but the Canadian Staff at NATO and the Russian Mission to NATO shot off the first major argument about the war via cartoonish maps.

Canada reminded Russia that Ukraine is not part of Russia.

Russia responded in kind with a map showing their claim to the Crimean Peninsula.  The map ignores Canada's point about Moscow's invasion of eastern Ukraine and, interestingly enough, fails to give full independence status to Russia's two-client states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

A Twitter user retorted with a hilarious example of how social media exchanges would have been done in 1938/39.

Another map cartoon finds a good pun with the world "Ukraine", much in the spirit of the "Crimea River" jokes from the last invasion.

Finally, while still rare in English, pro-Russian cartoon maps tend to be extremely anti-West and anti-Semitic.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Russia-Ukraine War Map Batch Two - Russia Reestablishing New Russia

Russia-Ukraine War Map Batch One - The Opening Moves in Crimea

The main question is if Russia intends to a) link up with the areas currently held by the Federation of Novorussiya b) claim all lost territory of the people's republics or c) reclaim all the old New Russia region? Image from the Ukrainian government.

The Russian Federation has invaded Ukraine again.  In the first invasion Russia sought to annex the Crimean Peninsula. Now, Russia is attempting to aid in the establishment of pro-Moscow "people's republics" which would act as unrecognized, mini-Transnistrias designed to keep Ukraine unstable for decades to come.

Live UA Map has a daily collection of maps and geo-located news stories.  The strong point of this website is that one can see the Donetsk People's Republic grow and be practically destroyed only to be rescued by the Russian invasion.

While there are no official maps of what the Federal State of Novorussiya (and therefore Moscow) claim, the official website of the federation feature maps which show all of Russian-speaking Ukraine as part of the republic (with one map oddly showing annexed Crimea) as part of the federation. 


Monday, August 25, 2014

The United Kingdom would be the Poorest State Besides Mississippi if it Joined the United States, Kind of Sort of

The British Spectator magazine has an interesting article which claims the United Kingdom would be the second poorest state in the union (with Mississippi being the poorest).  The author uses gross domestic product per capita and purchasing power parity to back up this claim.

So is this claim true?  By its own system: yes.  However, this is where lies, dang lies, and statistics come to haunt us.  Under this system Alaska and Wyoming come out as the richest states in the union?  Why, because there are less people in the state, cost of living is relatively low, and there are a few very rich people there which skew the average.  While the theory is true with GDP and PPP, ask yourself, is Wyoming better off economically than the United Kingdom.  The BBC could probably hold a Doctor Who fundraiser and buy out both these two states.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Islamic State, and Nothing Else

Back in June I wrote how the al Qaeda-breakaway group rampaging throughout Iraq and Syria should be referred to in English as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and not ISIS.  Now it is time to update that post.

The group should now be referred to the literal translation of الدولة الإسلامية‎: Islamic State.  The organization has established a political theocratic state based on the Mohammad-era war Caliphate model.  It also now claims worldwide control of all Muslims.  It no longer considers itself limited to Iraq and the Levant.

Just as we recognized the name change from al Qaeda in Iraq to the Islamic State of Iraq to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, we should recognize this name change.  No more AQI.  No more ISI.  No more ISIL/ISIS.  We are at war with the Islamic State, the self-proclaimed Caliphate.  If we do not consider their religious angle seriously we will fail in countering them on a cultural level.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

American Teen Wins International Geography Olympiad

James Mullen, a 17-year old Cupertino, California resident and rising senior at Monta Vista High School, took the top spot at the 11th International Geography Olympiad, held in Krakow, Poland from August 11 to August 18. Mullen finished atop the field of 144 competitors from 36 countries around the globe. He is the first American student to win the International Geography Olympiad in the 18-year history of the competition.

The International Geography Olympiad consists of three events: a fieldwork event where students take observations and analyze them, a written portion that asks students to critically think about major global issues, and a multiple-choice multimedia test which focuses on interpreting images and graphs.

The competition awards gold medals to the top 12 finishers, with Mullen having the highest combined overall score from all three events. Mullen was also the lone student to finish among the top ten students on each of the three portions of the competition

As a whole, Team USA finished tenth overall. The team included silver-medalist Anton Karpovich
(Hoffman Estates, IL) bronze-medalist Tine Valencic (Colleyville, TX), and David Yuan (Lexington, MA).

Medals at the Olympiad are awarded based on a formula where the top 1/12 of students receive gold
medals, the top 1⁄4 receive silver, and the top 1⁄2 receive bronze.

“James’ achievement is a tremendous honor for an American student on the world stage. His triumph
will encourage other students who are interested in the study of geography throughout the USA ” said
David Madden, co-coach of the American team and President of the United States Geography Olympiad.

April Scott, Mullen’s principal at Monta Vista High School added: “Monta Vista High School is extremely proud of James’ accomplishment! He has shown great focus and determination to reach this level of knowledge, and he is most deserving of this award! Congratulations to James!”

Mullen and his teammates were chosen from around 1,000 competitors nationwide in the US
Geography Olympiad, the national qualifying competition for the event, which is sponsored by
publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the television network HISTORY. The two sponsors also helped underwrite the expenses for the American students to attend the Olympiad in Krakow. After 94 separate regional qualifying competitions, the top students traveled to Arlington, Virginia in April to compete in the national championship, with the top four finishers being chosen to represent the USA in Krakow.

Mullen finished fourth in Arlington at the 2014 US National Championships, and will need to qualify
there again in 2015 to have a chance to defend his title at the 2015 International Geography Olympiad, which will be held in Russia.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hell on Mount Sinjar

Northwestern Iraq is actually a fairly multicultural place.  The groups which call this dry, desert area home are
  • Assyrians: These Christians are descendants of the great Assyrian Empire which destroyed the Kingdom of Israel.  Today the vast majority of these Christians are divided between the Chalcedon Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.  The Chalcedon Church has recently surpassed the Church of the East in size and both churches are working towards reunion under the Pope of Rome.
  • Turkmen: These ethnic Turks are the southern kin of the Turks of Turkey.  Unlike Turkey's Turks, these Turkmen are divided between Shia and Sunni Islam.  However, in part due to their living in Arab lands there tends to be little to no tension between the Shia and Sunni Turkmen..
  • Yezidi: These Kurdish people follow a religion which combines Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Gnosticism.  They quite literally are worshippers of Satan.  However, in their cosmology Satan is the greatest of God's angels and was given control of the world
  • Additionally there are Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds.

Now somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 of these Assyrians, Turkmen, Yezidi, Arabs, and Kurds have fled to the top of Mount Sinjar, a ridge 60 miles (100 kilometers) long in northwestern Iraq.  This mountain serves as a hiding spot from the army of the Islamic State.

The mountain serves as a life bridge for the area around it as it allows rainwater to collect then stream down into wadis thus offering water for the region.  However, unless it rains there is little water available and no crops can be grown on the mountain.  The life giver for the region and provider of shelter from the Islamic State is actually a slow killer.  This is why water and food deliveries are needed.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Every Man Remembered: Mapping the Commonwealth's World War I Dead

The Royal British Legion has a great website that is attempting to document every British Empire/Commonwealth World War I dead.  Every Man Remembered is attempting to give every dead warrior a story and map out their final resting place.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lakota Sioux Winter Counts: Calendars of Prairie Pasts

Lakota Sioux Indians would record the previous year on winter counts.  These records were written on buffalo hides as the Lakota hunkered down for the winter.  The winter counts serve as witnesses to wars, famines, unique events, and even epic changes in Lakota cosmology such as the 1775-76 discovery of the Black Hills (which ironically now serves as proof against neo-myths such as the Lakota Sioux always lived in the Black Hills.  This myth is advanced in sources like Aaron Carpella's "Native American Nations: Our Own Names & Locations" map.)

The Smithsonian Institute has most of the Winter Counts available online for viewing along with annotations.  I highly recommend viewing the Winter Counts for historical reasons as well as gaining insight into how American Indians experienced the revolutionary era of encroachment.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Hollywood Movies have Repeatedly Destroyed America

The blog Concourse has a good series of maps which, while self-admiringly is not comprehensive, shows the location of various disaster/monster movies.  Monsters, Creatures, Climate, Geological, infections, mankind, alien attacks, space rocks, superhero battles, and a sharknado have all taken their toll on the United States.

Interestingly, New York was the early center of disaster films but as the United States grew so did the location of movie apocalypses. New York City and Los Angeles still remain the scene of most incidents but a bias seems to dominate as the third largest city, Chicago, lags behind film industry-cities such as San Francisco and Washington.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Hunt at Home for Invasive Plants in Hawaii

There is yet another opportunity to be an at home imagery interpretation geographer thanks to the Nature Conservatory and Digital Globe.  It is now possible to look at imagery to find invasive plants in Hawaii's forests.  The effort is trying to find Australian and African plants that are competing against native Hawaiian trees thus altering the local ecosystem.

Do not worry if you do not know one tropical tree from another as the program is very easy to use and provides enough examples to help you identify invasive plants

Monday, July 07, 2014

July 2014 Travel Photo: Empire State Building

New York's official nickname is the "Empire State."  While some theories claim George Washington gave the state this nickname, notably due to its key role in the country's economy, there is no confirmed reason on how New York earned this name.

The Empire State's economy, and that of all the United States, suffered severely in the crash of 1929.  As part of the effort to reassert the economy and New York's role as a producer, construction of the Empire State Building began in 1930 (with plans only a few weeks old) and was finished in 1931.

The building was the tallest in the world until 1972 (now 23rd) and remains a cultural marker for New York City.

Friday, June 27, 2014

100 Years Ago Today: The Assassination that Changed the World

USA for democracy by allying with unstable radical anti-minority republic-at-home-empire-abroad France, stable constitutional monarchy-at-home but empire-abroad United Kingdom, and absolutist Russia against most social democratic-friendly but turned military dictatorship Germany, unstable but trying to find peace Austria-Hungary, and the genocidal nationalist Ottoman Empire. 
One hundred years ago today Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Serbian terrorists backed by rogue elements of the itself-rogue state of the Kingdom of Serbia.  The war which resulted from the assassination ended in a poorly thought peace treaty by the Allies which in turned directly led to World War II and the Cold War.  Spin-offs of these wars include the murder wars of Latin America, the cable wars of Africa, and conflicts in the Middle East.

That one assassination deeply impacted borders around the world but especially in still changing Europe.

Pray for peace.

Blessed Emperor Karl I of Austria-Hungary.  The only man open to peace and because of that he was bypassed by his allies and exiled by his opponents. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World Cup Tie-Ins Show Geographic Illiteracy

Americans' interest in soccer (association-rules football) comes in go with the tide peaking at the time of the World Cup.  Every four years there is a surge of caring which recedes soon after Team USA's loss and elimination. This year the World Cup has caused an all time high in soccer-interest.  Team USA's victory over Ghana led to an outpouring of sports patriotism... and geo-illeteracy.

First Delta decided to celebrate victory by tweeting an image which represents the United States with the Statue of Liberty and Ghana with a giraffe. A major problem with the image is that giraffes do not live in Ghana.  All Africa is treated the same much like all Indians are thought of as the same in Siouxification.  Oddly, the sin Delta committed is the same that Kwanzaa is by nature treating all Africa as the same.

Next is a photo making the rounds claiming to show how most are immigrants.  The purpose of to the photo is to support immigration reform.  The problem with this image is that it is a racist and probably full of lies (not just untruths) because none of the players are actually immigrants.  It claims those with Hispanic-names are immigrants even though they were born in the United States and those born outside the United States are immigrants even though all of them were born citizens because of their parents.

Finally, Google cannot tell the difference between Ghana's flag and Cameroon's.

Geo-illiteracy is common and the World Cup is only making it more noticeable

Monday, June 16, 2014

Islamic State of Iraq and What?

The Sunni Islamist terrorist army swarming over western and northern Iraq refers to itself as الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام, which translates to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.  The term "al-Sham" is the reason the group is sometimes referred to the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" and other times as the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria".

The term al-Sham (Sham, for short) in Arabic means the land of the left hand because it was to the north of Arabia.  This refers to the person facing the rising sun in Arabia, thus leaving north on the left hand side.  Sham has long been used in classical Arab and Islamic geography to mean Syria, however, not the land of the modern Syrian Arab Republic (سورية , Syria) but the historic region of greater Syria.  For example, the Roman Syria included modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and parts of Turkey while Ottoman Syria also included Israel, Jordan, and parts of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  Basically, the historic region of Syria is a near perfect match for the western concept of the Levant.

So, a close to literal translation has the group being "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria", however, most readers are likely to confuse greater Syria (al-Sham) with the modern state of Syria.  Because al-Sham is a near perfect fit for the concept of "Levant" and they have made clear their goals are more Leavant-oriented I recommend using the term the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The ISIL is not a fan of the small boundaries of the Syrian Arab Republic and prefer al-Sham instead. Photo via Twitter.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Middle East War (Iraq Front) Maps Batch 1: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's Advance

Note: Both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Leavant as well as the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hizbollah axis view the Syrian Civil War and the new Iraq War as one-in-the-same.  It is time we do too.

There are a lot of maps out there showing what is going on in Iraq.  Some are better than others and most tell only a part of the story. However, by combining the maps together one can gain a good understanding of the situation on the ground.

The Washington Post has a good map showing the ethnic breakdown of Iraq as well as the latest updates.  Note how the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, aka Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), aka al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)) has been temporally stopped at Samarra, the northern outpost of Shia Iraq.  The remaining 100 miles to Baghdad will be much harder if not impossible for ISIL as they will be fighting on Shia Arab land against Iranian-trained local militias and not on Sunni Arab land against poorly motivated troops.  Also note how the Kurds have advanced outside their Regional Government and into disputed Kirkuk.  This will pose problems in the future as Baghdad will be unlikely to reassert control in Kurdish-annexed Kirkuk.

Long War Journal has a great map showing cities and towns in Iraq and Syria occupied by ISIL.

View Iraqi and Syrian Towns and Cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham in a larger map

This Washington Post map shows ISIL controlled areas as islands of population surrounded by desert connected by the only major roads in the hinterlands of Iraq and Syria.  Although I do not think ISIL control is that solid, established in eastern and central Iraq as shown.  (The West Bank is shown separate from Jordan but the text buffer covers most of the border)

While I do not like this map on Twitter showing ISIL control as a solid block, it does a good job showing how the group is focusing on controlling the oil wells and fields.  ISIL likely is selling this oil on the black market thus making it a self-sufficient terrorist army.

This map by a Twitter user, Ghazi, is quite good.  It explains areas of control versus areas of freedom of movement, and it shows how the post-World War I division between Syria and Iraq is basically over (for now at least).

Finally, though no longer novel it is always important to note geographic knowledge is power.  Here is a photo via FlashPointIntel of an ISIL officer planning the offensive using Google Earth.

The Return of the Islamic State of Iraq (and the Levant)

For 2014 Iraq War maps go here

When I left Iraq in 2009 I was feeling good about its future. However, in my final thoughts post I gave a bit of a warning

Is the War Against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) Won?Some bloggers who never were in Iraq and some who were have declared victory. I meanwhile see AQI as lying on the ground, bleeding from all orifices.While near AQI is near death anyone who says they are defeated is wrong. The greater command network of AQI is destroyed so now AQI is more or less a grouping of quasi-independent regions that relay on themselves for logistical support. Right now most of the fighting against AQI is done by the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. These organizations still need the help Coalition Forces can supply including advanced targeting and large, overwhelming force.

Sadly we did not follow through.  The Syrian Civil War allowed al Qaeda in Iraq (renamed the Islamic State of Iraq and later Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) to regroup.  Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki used the courts to steal the promising results of the 2010 elections.  The Sunni militias that helped us defeat AQI/ISI were not properly paid and heroes like Colonel Faruq in Haditha were ignored.

Now in a series of blitzkerg attacks ISIL now has combined their war against the Syrian Arab Republic (Assad-regime), their war against the Syrian anti-Assad rebels, and their war against Syrian Kurds with their renewed war against the Iraqi government.  ISIL is moving units back-and-forth across the Syrian-Iraq border because it considers all these wars the same and so should we.

We should consider them the same war not only because ISIL does but so does the other side: the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria-Iraq axis.  In fact, the main reason ISIL has been stopped 100 miles north of Baghdad is because they are now fighting Iranian-trained, Shia militias full of veterans of the American and Syrian wars.  Iran and the Iraqi Shia militas will pull units from Syria to fight ISIL in Iraq.

Meanwhile, I am stuck here thinking about the Iraqis I served with trying to figure out if they are alive or, maybe even, fighting in Sunni militias against the Government of Iraq.  Elsewhere, Mosul has most likely lost its entire Christian population due to death and the exodus in the past 72 hours.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Database of Grand Army of the Republic Monuments

The Grand Army of the Republic was the first major veterans group in the United States.  This collection of Union troops did much to perverse Civil War history and became a power player in politics (the Republican Party is known as "the Grand Old Party" because of its relationship with the "Grand Army of the Republic").

One key legacy of the GAR is the many monuments and memorials it funded.  However, as time passed by some impoverished local governments sold the monuments for scrap.  Fortunately, now the successor to GAR, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, is working on ensuring GAR monuments are protected.  Part of their effort involves creating databases of GAR monuments throughout the country.  While their list is incomplete and a work in progress, the state departments of SUVCW are creating pages documenting monuments with locations and pictures.

As a member of SUVCW and the Civil War Trust, I am a huge supporter of protecting and promoting Civil War heritage.  The story of Joe Hooker Camp statue and cannon of Sioux Falls, South Dakota is a tragic example of what happens when people no longer understand the sacrifice of others and their physical memory is mistreated.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Most Efficient Way to Drive Through All the Contiguous United States

View Larger Map

Stephen Von Worley of Data Pointed has found the most efficient way to drive through all the forty-eight connected United States.  Needless to say it is quite creative and relies in part by quick drive through certain states.  I do not know if this would meet TDAXP's requirement of visiting states (getting out of the car and buying something) but bravo to such a neat, fascinating effort.  Interestingly thinking outside the box, the trip ends in Montana while I would probably of had the trip in California or Washington.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Map of Apostasy Laws

Only Israel and Lebanon allow for religious change in the Middle East core.
The Pew Research Center and Washington Post created the above map showing where apostasy is against the law on any governmental level.  All countries with apostasy laws are in the Muslim gap with the excpetion of Nigeria.  Nigeria does not break the Islamic rule, however, because the apostasy laws are in the northern state run by Nigeria.  The presence of these laws show the difficulty in separating religion and state on even the most basic levels in the Islamic mindset.  However, this is not so surprising since Islam and the state were meant to be one from the beginning while Christianity and Judaism (and even Dharma religions) had their beginnings separate from the state.

Interestingly enough, the Assad-run Syrian Arab Republic only forbids apostasy when public order is 'disturbed' by it.  There are no legal cases which cite apostasy disturbing the public order.  Anti-apostasy laws are only enforced in Islamist rebel controlled parts of Syria.

The People's Republics of Ukraine

A variety of unofficial, pro-Russia statelets have appeared in eastern Ukraine.  The movements are primarily limited to Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Right now no country, not even Russia, recognizes these people's republics as independent. 

The term people's republic does not reflect Marxist socialism.  Instead it is representative, as the New Republic as pointed out, of a very old school of Russian conservatism which connects Eastern Orthodoxy and societal collectivism of a Christian socialist variety.
Here is a quick guide:

Donetsk People's Republic

View Larger Map

Located in Donetsk Oblast, this was the first "people's republic" to declare independence from Kyiv.  Most of the fighting has been done in Donetsk. 

Luhansk People's Republic

View Larger Map

Located in Luhansk, this people's republic has been slower in forming but picked up speed as Kyiv focused most of its "anti-terrorist" operations in Donetsk.

Federal State of New Russia aka Novorossiya 

 It is unclear whether or not The Federal State of New Russia, also known as Novorossiya, exists.  The leadership of the Donetsk People's Republic all states it does but the leadership of the Luhansk People's Republic is divided on whether or not they belong to it.  This implies Novorossiya may be an effort by the more successful Donetsk People's Republic to control Luhansk People's Republic.

While some have noted the flag of Novorossiya mirrors the Confederate battle flag, this is a concidence.  Red, white, and blue are the colors of Russia and the Novorossiya flag is almost a dead copy of the Russian naval jack.

Odessa People's Republic

Declared on the internet to the shock of anti-Kyiv protesters in Odessa, this people's republic seems to exist online only.

Kharkiv People's Republic

Crushed within one day of its founding.


The only "real" people's republics are in Donetsk and Luhansk.  While these claim their respective oblasts, their real control is demonstrated in the map below showing where Ukrainian elections were unable to be held.

Grey shows areas of no voting, i.e. people's republic hold on territory.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Jerzy Popieluszko: Religion and Geography

Jerzy Popieluszko: The Messenger of the Truth has one of the most suspenseful climaxes for a documentary I have ever seen.  The film is about a Polish priest who sets out to remind Poles about their natural rights as workers and humans.  His struggle shows the dark side of utopian visions such as Communism due to its disconnectedness with natural law and the world.  I strongly recommend this film.

Several factors make Father Popieluszko's effort note worthy to even secularists (or geographers disconnected to religious issues) and play key roles in the documentary:

The Papal Effect was Only the Beginning: 1980s Poland was revolutionized by the Polish pope, Saint John Paul II.  John Paul's election and visit to Poland allowed for the popular culture to come out of forced hiding due to Communist rule.  However, after a week the pope went back to Rome.  The labor union Solidarity and its chaplain, Popieluszko, seized the momentum the pope started.  The union united not only blue collar Poles but also academics and rural populations in making a popular culture peaceful resistance.

Communism - A "Vanguard" is not the People: Solidarity was an independent labor union and that scared the "Workers of the World, Unite" Communist Party of Poland.  Communist and major leftist movements had long moved past any serious care for the worker.  Solidarity's goals were laborist, not leftist, and that scared the party.

Faith is dangerous, it's why Caiaphas killed Jesus: There is a reason why Poland crackdown on Catholicism after the rise of Solidarity.  It is the same reason the People's Republic of China bans independent Christianity and why Caiaphas killed Jesus.  When an authoritarian regime encounters someone claiming there is a "universal truth" above the party/regime/king then the regime is shown to be limited.  It must either strike out or fold, there is no middle ground.

The documentary is well done and the narration by Martin Sheen sets a professional tone.  Clocking in at about 90 minutes this film is best viewed in one sitting but I recommend parental guidance before letting children watch it. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to Succeed in Business with a Degree in Geography

Justin Holman linked to an article by Dr. James Chan about how to succeed in business with a geography degree.  Here are key points I really enjoyed

How much is your success in consulting related to your degrees in geography? I apply what I know about Chinese geography and cultural geography to day-to-day problems in business. I’ve worked with more than 100 U.S. manufacturers, trade associations, and service organizations. Businesses need people with geographical and cross-cultural knowledge.
Could you give an example of how you applied geography to a business problem? A company spent $1,000,000 on postage each year to mail catalogs worldwide. I looked at its bloated mailing list and found that there were many duplicate records. This means that quite a number of people received multiple copies of marketing materials. Many names on the list were misspelled and out-of-date. I surveyed our worldwide customer base and eliminated duplication and waste. Management was very happy because I reduced their costs.
What advice would you give to someone with a geography degree about succeeding in business? Start at an entry level and learn a business. Geography is not a trade. It is an academic discipline. Once you know enough of a business, you can apply your unique training as a geographer to look at things in a way that people trained in other disciplines may not come up with. This is how you differentiate yourself and become competitive. Few businesses pay us to teach them geography. They just want us to solve their problems and get things done. It’s up to us to invent ourselves.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What is the World's Deadliest Animal to Humans? Depends on How and Who You Count

Bill Gates released a chart showing the deadliest animals to humans.

Diseases spread by mosquitoes such as dengue, malaria, Rift Valley fever, yellow fever, and West Nile make this flying insect a plague to many.

The chart on the surface looks good.  It cites the World Health Organization and other reputable sources.  It shows just how deadly mosquitoes are compared to the stereotype killers such snakes, sharks, and other killing animals.  However, the 475,000 homicides by fellow humans is too low when you count abortions.  There are up to 42 million abortions a year.  When one factors in abortion the 3 mosquito-caused deaths for every 2 homicides changes to 1 mosquito-caused death for every 58 homicides.  Quite a dramatic changed. as we remain our own worst enemy. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week Geography: The Cosmos Gathers in Jerusalem for Passover/Good Friday

Unlike the scattered disposition of people during the first advent, the cosmos was centering on Jerusalem.

Herod Antipas

The Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea ruled the rump of his family's kingdom.  All left under his direct control was Galilee to the north and Pera (modern-day western Jordan).  His family of Jewish gentiles were a vague shadow of the great kings like David and Solomon.  He was in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.  Ultimately, he would represent how some people completely waste away God's gifts.

Pontius Pilate

The Roman governor of Judea represented the Emperor Augustus by ruling the Holy Land directly for Rome.  Jerusalem was his capital and the influx of Jews from across the Empire, Arabia, and Persia for the Passover celebration required his direct oversight.  Pilate represented the might of worldly powers but his violence and ultimately cowardliness represented the limits of worldly gains.

Joseph Caiaphas

The high priest of the Temple lived, worked, and prayed in Jerusalem.  He would need to oversee the Passover.  During his time on Passover/Good Friday, Caiaphas shows the tragedy of making religion an ideology and political calculations while ignoring the divine.


The Christ entered Jerusalem knowing what was going to happen.  While some like Caiaphas feared Jesus would use Passover to start a revolution, but instead He came to complete the feast.  He would also turn the focus of the faith from the city of Jerusalem to the universal Jerusalem

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Virtual Geography Convention 2014: Beach Science

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2014!  If you wish to submit to the virtual geography convention please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

The Tampa Bay Times has an article about Dr. Stephen Leatherman and how he scientifically measures the quality of beaches.  It makes me enviousness of his field research.  There were many times in Afghanistan when I wished I had the dream job of protecting and scientifically caring for beaches.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Virtual Geography Convention 2014: Does Distance Matter in Distance Education?

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2014!  If you wish to submit to the virtual geography convention please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

Heng Luo, Anthony Robinson, James Detwiler, and John Dulton of Pennsylvania State University have posted on the internet their quantitative study: Does geographic distance matter in distance education?  Though they only look at the Master's in GIS program at Pennsylvania State for the study their answer makes sense.

Virtual Geography Convention 2014: Spatialization of Identity in Dubai, UAE

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2014!  If you wish to submit to the virtual geography convention please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

Addison Miller, graduate student at Ohio Wesleyan University, presented a paper at the Association of American Geographers conference entitled Spatialization of Identity in Dubai, UAE.  Mr. Miller was kind enough to post his presentation online.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Virtual Geograph Convention 2014: What is Wrong with the Geography in Academia in One Tweet

This is what happens when the Association of American Geographers lets anyone present at their annual conference without any sort of review.  This is also what happens when geography is lost as a discipline in academia.

Virtual Geography Convention 2014: Animated Map of Drone Strikes in the Middle East

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2014!  If you wish to submit to the virtual geography convention please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

A animated time-based map discussed at this year's Association of American Geographers conference shows drone strikes and fatalities in the greater Middle East area.

Of a sort of ironic note, the cartographer uses MapStory which was originally financed as a Department of Defense project.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Virtual Geography Convention 2014: How Good Government and Education Save Lives in Earthquake-prone Chile

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2014!  If you wish to submit to the virtual geography convention please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

Dr. John Shroder, professor of geography and geology at the University of Nebraska Omaha, recently published a piece on why mega-earthquakes kill less people in Chile than smaller earthquakes elsewhere.  The easy-to-read In Chile’s earthquake, education was key to low mortality documents how past exposure to large earthquakes, competent government, and education efforts all teamed up together to save lives.

Virtual Geography Convention 2014: New Drought Monitoring System

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2014!  If you wish to submit to the virtual geography convention please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

Dr. Hongixing Liu, a University of Cincinnati  professor and head of the school's geography department, is giving a talk at the Association of American Geographers convention about his new drought monitoring system.  The university released a press release which is reproduced below.

UC Geographers Develop a System to Track the Dynamics of Drought

University of Cincinnati researchers are at work tracking drought patterns across the United States. Qiusheng Wu, a doctoral student and research assistant for the UC Department of Geography, and Hongxing Liu, a UC professor and head of the Department of Geography, will present details this week at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in Tampa, Fla.

To trace the dynamics around agricultural drought, the UC researchers implemented an Event-based Spatial-Temporal Data Model (ESTDM) to detect, track and monitor conditions. The framework organizes data into objects, sequences, processes and events.

The data was collected from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite, which was the first of its kind dedicated to measure moisture near the surface of the soil. The study focused on four years of data (2010-2014), which included the devastating Texas drought in 2011 and the 2014 California drought.

The satellite uses an L-band (1.4 Ghz) passive microwave radiometer to analyze the spatial and temporal variations of soil moisture and ocean salinity. “Recent studies have shown that many historical drought events in the U.S. are closely related to La Niña, a phenomenon known for its periodic cooling of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean. So in addition to measuring soil moisture for drought monitoring, it is also important to measure ocean salinity,” explains Wu.

The satellite can penetrate the Earth’s surface up to 5 centimeters, providing a soil variable for each pixel, which represents 25 kilometers. The satellite’s data collection occurred over a three-day rotation.

The researchers were examining patterns of spreading drought to develop predictions for future drought events.

“Soil moisture is defined as the ratio between volume of water and volume of soil holding the water, which is expressed in percentages, so high soil moisture indicates wet while low soil moisture indicates dry. 

“By studying the soil moisture data from the satellite, we can see where the droughts begin and end, and what might indicate patterns of how it can spread over one large area. The pattern might be used to predict the drought in another location, so that those areas could take precautions to avoid the impact of an oncoming drought,” says Wu.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – known as the leading international organization for the assessment of climate change – predicted in 2012 that droughts would intensify in some seasons and in many regions worldwide in the future due to reduced precipitation and/or increased evapotranspiration.

 “Drought ranks among the most costly of all natural disasters. It has wide-ranging impacts on many sectors of society, affecting agriculture, economics, ecosystems services, energy, human health, recreation and water resources. By predicting the timing, severity and movement of drought events, we can provide fundamental information for planning and management in developing a response plan,” says Wu.

Future research will involve data gathered from a satellite that NASA is launching toward the end of the year, the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite. The SMAP satellite integrates an L-band radar (1.26 GHz) and an L-band (1.41 GHz) radiometer as a single observation system combining the relative strengths of active and passive remote sensing for enhances soil moisture mapping. The combined radar-radiometer-based soil moisture product will be generated at about an intermediate 9-km resolution with three-day global revisit frequency. Wu says the accuracy, resolution and global coverage of SMAP soil moisture and freeze/thaw measurements would be invaluable across many science and applications disciplines including hydrology, climate and carbon cycle, and the meteorological, environmental and ecology applications communities.

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) is a nonprofit scientific and educational society that is dedicated to the advancement of geography. The meeting will feature more than 4,500 presentations, posters, workshops and field trips by leading scholars, experts and researchers. The AAG annual meeting has been held every year since the association's founding in 1904.

Virtual Geography Convention 2014: Geography Research Could Improve The Effectiveness Of Hospital Patient Transport Services

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2014!  If you wish to submit to the virtual geography convention please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.
Dr.  Michael Widener, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of geography, Daniel Schileth, a graduate student at Cincinnati, and other medical professionals are teaming up to analyze the best way to decide how best to transport critical-care patients.  The University of Cincinnati put out a press release discussing the effort and its presentation at this years Association of American Geographers conference.  The press release is reproduced below.

Geography Research Could Improve The Effectiveness Of Hospital Patient Transport Services

Factoring patient transport by air or by land: Technology is providing a firm diagnosis on critical transport times.

University of Cincinnati research is offering hospitals and trauma centers a unique, accurate and scientific approach to making decisions about transporting critical-care patients by air or by ambulance. A presentation this week at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in Tampa, Fla., highlights the research of Michael Widener, a UC assistant professor of geography, along with Zac Ginsberg, MD, Maryland Shock Trauma Center; Samuel Galvagno Jr., assistant professor, Divisions of Trauma Anesthesiology and Adult Critical Care Medicine, Maryland Shock Trauma Center; and Daniel Schlieth, a UC graduate student.

The research uses analysis by Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to provide information on whether patient transport would be more successful by ambulance or medical helicopter in terms of cost as well as patient care. Early results indicate GIS technology is both accurate and successful in providing estimated transport times to trauma centers.

The study analyzes patient transport data from the Maryland Medevac Helicopter Program, focusing on travel time equal to or less than 60 minutes, the so-called “golden hour” of getting critical-care patients to treatment. Recognized as a national model, the Maryland Medevac Helicopter Program is considered to be one of the largest and most sophisticated air-medical transport systems in the country.

Launched in 1970, the elite system in Maryland is taxpayer funded and operated by state police, with the philosophy that a medical helicopter can transport anyone in the state within the hour. The system is coordinated by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System.

However, the system carries a considerable price tag for its operation and maintenance. One medical trip costs thousands of dollars in operating costs. In 2012, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced a $121.7 million contract for 10 new state-of-the-art helicopters to replace the state’s 11 helicopters, 10 of which were more than 20 years old.

State protocols for operation were updated beginning in 2004 and more policy changes followed a medical helicopter crash in 2008 that killed two state police, a medical technician and a patient. Another patient survived that accident, but was left with severe injuries. The helicopter was en route to the hospital in foggy weather, after picking up two people injured in a traffic accident.

In applying the GIS technology to factor ambulance versus medical helicopter response times, the researchers examined more than 10 years of medical helicopter transports in a five county area surrounding Frederick County, Maryland, over 2000-2011. The data involved 2,200 medical cases.

The technology computed the time of air transport versus ground transport, accounting for distance (and not just a straight line) for ground travel, as well as speed limits – estimating that ambulances would travel 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. “We could also account for slower traffic in our calculations, such as traffic jams or other delays, but we assume that such slowdowns are not a factor, since ambulances can use the shoulder, and traffic will usually clear a path for EMS vehicles,” says Widener.

Based on the analyses of the medical cases in the study, the researchers found that 31 percent of the trauma cases transported by air could have also been transported by ambulance within the “golden hour” of trauma treatment, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars.

“Once a trauma center has decided it needs to accept a patient, the question becomes, how can you most safely get them there? So what GIS, when applied to this medical and clinical decision-making moment allows, is the accurate assessment of the time costs, and we want to take this research into examining how to benefit the patient the most,” says Ginsberg. “We must still take into account the severity of the patient, but from this research, we have the answer to a question that has not been able to be answered accurately: From where you are, how long is it going to take to get to the trauma center?”

“As the system becomes more motivated to fly fewer patients – not just for cost but also for safety – we think GIS is going to play a key role. The technology and analytical methods that Michael has developed for this are going to play a key role in policy decisions and allocation of what is an expensive and limited resource,” says Galvagno.

Ginsberg says that future research might also involve looking into how policy changes and hospital closures changed patterns of utilizing helicopters.

Widener says that GIS has been in existence since the 1960s, and was first developed in Canada to manage land inventory. The popularity of the technology didn’t increase until the rise of personal computers in the late 20th century. Widener says GIS now has a wide range of applications from business operations to transportation, conservation and agriculture, urban planning and more areas.

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) is a nonprofit scientific and educational society that is dedicated to the advancement of geography. The meeting will feature more than 4,500 presentations, posters, workshops and field trips by leading scholars, experts and researchers. The AAG annual meeting has been held every year since the association’s founding in 1904

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Virtual Geography Convention 2014: The Non-Geographic Side of the AAG Convention

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2014!  If you wish to submit to the virtual geography convention please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

While serious discussions and geographical topics are discussed at the Association of American Geographers conference continue, the dark side of academia has a presence that continues to stain academic geography.

Twitter only gets a small percentage of the non-geographic, non-mainstream political discussion going on but it is a good sample of the sad state of certain subfields of geography. 

Compare these to the geography of the late Dr. Harm de Blij or what you learned in school or National Geographic.

Virtual Geography Convention 2014: Rethinking Mapping for Geography Teacher Education

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2014!  If you wish to submit to the virtual geography convention please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

Stacey Kerr of the University of Georgia is presenting at the AAG her topic of Rethinking Mapping for Geography Teacher Education.  The slides below have the text on her website and it is posted below as well.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app

Presentation Outline



    The implementation of an effective geography education is dependent upon teachers who can successfully present and engage students with curricular content. Due to a lack of formal geography teacher education programs, most geography teachers are prepared in social studies education programs that rarely delve into geography’s complexity. Thus, many preservice geography teachers are often unprepared to teach a robust and thoughtful P-12 geography curriculum (Schell, Roth, & Mohan, 2013 p. 91). While eventually it may be important to drastically overhaul the preparation process of geography teachers, there are ways that teacher educators can act now in their existing classes to improve the readiness of preservice teachers to effectively teach geography. In light of this thought, this paper explores my own experience with unsuccessful geography modules in a teacher education program, and how the implementation of a reconceptualized hands-on mapping assignment provided unique opportunities for preservice teachers to interact more thoughtfully with geography content.
    Photo by J. Stephen Conn

    1. Context
    2. Theoretical Framework 
    3. Practice
    4. Implications 
    5. Final Words 
    Specifically, this presentation investigates: the context of the study; its theoretical underpinning; the specifics of the mapping assignment; and finally, the implications of thinking with this theoretical framework for geography teacher education and beyond.


    Geography teachers in the United States are rarely prepared through formal geography teacher education programs. In most cases, they major in social studies education since there are very few geography teacher preparation programs in the country. In the social studies education major at many institutions, students take general education classes, courses in pedagogy, methods, and curriculum, and participate in field experiences and student teaching. During this course of study, it is usually only in the methods and curriculum classes that students have the opportunity to learn about how to teach geography (while simultaneously learning how to teach all of the other social studies disciplines). Therefore, in many cases, future geography teachers only have one to two class sessions containing explicit instruction on geography content and pedagogy. This preparation is often inadequate for a preservice teacher to become a successful geography teacher (Bednarz, Heffron, & Huynh, 2013; Schell, Roth, & Mohan, 2013). While systemic adjustments to geography teacher preparation practices might result in better geography teachers in the future, I have an interest in creating interventions within our existing educational structure. In my current position as a teacher educator in a social studies education program, I aim to make the most of the one or two class sessions in which we exclusively focus on geography pedagogy and content. The first few times that I worked with preservice teachers about geography in a curriculum course, I based most of the classroom activities around a discussion. I asked students what their previous experiences were with geography and their responses were what you might expect: they colored in maps, memorized state capitals, and looked at outdated world maps that hung from their classroom walls. In light of their experiences, many people in the class were skeptical of my own teaching when our readings and class discussions were based around the political and controversial nature of maps and the field of geography. The preservice teachers’ false preconceptions about geography were worrisome but not surprising. Research on geography education often cites that many P-12 classrooms have a focus on map work and seldom allow students to engage in critical thought or delve into the why of where (for examples of research, see: Brophy & Alleman, 2007; McCall, 2011; Sharma & Elbow, 2000). Thus, what I was asking students to do during this geography module was likely outside the realm of how they had previously thought about and interacted with geography content.
    Photo by Jill
  4. 4. ME@UGA


    After several of these minimally successfully geography modules, I decided that I needed to adjust my method of intervention. Instead of reading and discussing the controversial nature of maps and geography, I wanted the preservice teachers to experience it. I visualized an assignment where teachers would get outside of the classroom and “do geography.” Although few of the preservice teachers I generally work with have had a geography course past high school, I am of the belief that everyone is a geographer because they are engaged geographic thinking all the time; it is just that students with limited experience in academic geography do not have the language to discuss topics from the field in complex ways. Thus, I created an accessible assignment that used the preservice teachers’ already existing skills to create powerful maps.
  5. 5. WHAT IS "MAPPING?"


    In the activity that I will discuss in the next section of the paper, I see mapping as not only the plotting of points, but also the process of reading, taking photographs, moving through a space, interrogating and inquiring about point clusters on a physical map, discussing ideas with classmates, and forming new and different understandings. This idea is informed through my reading of poststructural and new materialist theory. In the first chapter of their most famous book, A Thousand Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1980/1987) urge readers to make a map (p. 12). Yet, how they write about maps and mapping is not the same as the traditional sense.


    A map, for Deleuze and Guattari, is not a stable, fixed representation of place, but is productive, performative, in flux, and has multiple entryways. Deleuzoguattarian maps do not aim to represent anything, but instead function as a way to think differently about something. A map can be placed in opposition to what Deleuze and Guattari (1987) call a tracing, or something like a traditional map, which aims to organize, stabilize, and neutralize. Tracings always “come back to the same” (p. 13) whereas maps are “oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real” and is “open and connectible in all of its dimensions” (p. 12). When conceiving of a Deleuzoguattarian map, one considers the discursive, material, and social relations and formations to create “possible realities” (p. 12). Yet, tracings, fixed and stable representations, are always put back on the map to reveal “the dominant discursive and material forces at play” as well as those “forces that have been elided, marginalized or ignored altogether and forces that might have the power to transform or reconfigure reality in various ways” (Martin & Kamberelis, 2013, p. 671). In this sense, Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas about mapping do not get rid of maps as we know them. Instead, these maps become part of a more inclusive and larger mapping project. This reconceptualization of mapping stems from Deleuze and Guattari’s thinking about ontology. Most people understand ontology as the nature of being, but these philosophers think about it in terms of becoming. Mapping, then, is as an active process that charts becoming(s) and not just the current state or something or somewhere. It aims to explore new realms and possibilities. It helps break down binaries and explores how things are not this or that, but can be this and that and many other things all at once. Mapping acknowledges the many entities, processes, and discourses that go into any single second, space, feeling, or thought.
    Photo by John Spooner


    Perhaps the easiest way to imagine this is to visualize a computer screen. When you look at a computer screen, it appears to be stable. Yet, we know that this stability is created by thousands of electrical currents going through tiny LCD cells every millisecond to produce an image. These currents are always moving, but they move so fast that the image on the screen appears to be standing still. This is essentially indicative of Deleuze and Guattari’s idea related to ontology and mapping: everything is always in flux and always changing. Mapping accounts for these changes, versus tracing, which is fixed on the static representation of places and things.
    Photo by zen


    When creating this assignment, I not only wanted to experiment with Deleuze and Guattari’s reconceptualized notion of mapping in practice, I also wanted preservice teachers to do geography, and engage with geography content that would be relevant to their daily lives. I learned through various discussions that most of the preservice teachers in this class had a limited understanding of the social, political, racial, and economic structure of the city. Therefore, the goal for this assignment was threefold. Students would learn something about their local neighborhoods and the related geography content, do geography, and see a teaching practice that they could initiate in their future classrooms. I separated the assignment into three phases that would be conducted before and during our formal geography module. The phases were: reading and context building, exploring and photographing, and, analysis and inquiry.
    Photo by thejaymo


    The first part of the assignment involved several short readings. The preservice teachers read chapters from Jeff Speck's (2012) book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, which introduced students to the idea of new urbanism while also discussing how mobility within a city (transportation, walkability, bikability) impacts the way that people exist in and experience a place. This text served as an accessible baseline introduction to new and complex geographic concepts for the students.
    Photo by A Walker in LA


    Next, preservice teachers went out into the surrounding neighborhoods of our university to find concepts from Walkable City in real life. For example, if they were particularly interested in the idea of bikability in the reading, they might go to a certain area in town that had a bike lane on the road. Then, once they found a representation of that concept in real life, they took a photograph of the concept using Instagram, which not only takes pictures, but also collects geotags (data about the picture’s geographic coordinates). After they had taken the photographs, students included a specific hashtag in their caption of the photograph so that we could collect all the photos together in one collection. Since all of the photographs were geotagged and hashtagged with a specific caption, we were able to easily create a map of where everyone in the class took pictures using the website, Gramfeed. Once the students had explored the town, found concepts as they saw them in real life, took pictures, hashtagged and uploaded them, we had a rich data set and interesting maps that displayed where the preservice teachers saw the concepts from their reading in real life. The data set was not only rich because of the point data that the geotags generated, but also because of the collection of aesthetic images that represented concepts in space, as well as the students' narration of these concepts in place.


    Through the first two phases of the assignment, students became geographers by creating this data-rich map without any formal instruction in GIS or dense theoretical topics. The students created the map by interacting with space and technology in familiar ways. When they returned to the classroom for the analysis and inquiry phase, they had another opportunity to think geographically. As a group, we worked together to review the map, the aesthetic images, and other points of discussion that individual students brought forth.


    A surprising and unintended result occurred during our group review of the maps: students performed crude cluster analyses. They made connections between the clustering of points (and their connected photography), the concept that they represented, and the space in which those photographs were taken.


    For example, students noted that many of the images that represented walkable places were clustered in white, affluent neighborhoods. Conversely, they noticed that the dangerous areas for walking and biking were often in neighborhoods that were largely African American and poor. When students made these comments, we were then able to have in-depth conversations about race, income, and space, which are certainly important to geography but also other social studies disciplines.


    Mapping in this activity was not just the physical plotting of points. Mapping was the reading, movement throughout space, finding a concept in real life, creating an aesthetic object through photography, geotagging the photograph, reviewing the physical map, and engaging in the conversation that was prompted by the map, photographs, and narrations. Through this mapping activity, preservice teachers had the opportunity to experiment with and disrupt the apparent continuity and stability presented in traditional maps through the making of their own. They reconfigured, dispersed, and threaded the reading assignment, their photographs, the GIS map, and their narratives of all aspects together to create a map that focused on change (in perceptions and thinking) instead of stability. When these various texts (photos, narratives, maps) were presented in relation to each other and mapped out spatially and discursively, it helped them think in new ways about the town in which they live. Not only were new understandings achieved, preservice teachers had a platform to discuss their confusions which heightened the complexity of the work, thinking, and experience in which they were involved. Ultimately, this reconsideration of mapping in this assignment allowed us to explore “potential organizations of reality” in students’ daily lives and understanding of geography “rather than reproducing some prior organization of it” (Martin & Kamberelis, 2012, p. 671). It opened up a situation in which there is not just one route or destination, but several. It allowed for new modes of thinking and connections that may not have been possible using another assignment. Perhaps the biggest impact of the mapping was that some of the preservice teachers remarked that they would not have thought prior to this assignment that the daily activities they engaged in were relevant to geography. Some talked about being more interested in the subject area and even admitted that they saw geography in a different light after participating in an activity like this. As such, I see this type of activity, based on experience and already existent student ability, as a more compelling model for teaching geography to preservice teachers, especially within the current structure. When you have such a short time to discuss geography, it requires that you make a large impact and quickly. It is important to note that while this activity took place in a teacher education course, it would easily be extracted to other contexts in which instructors wish for their students to engage differently with geography content and do not feel like they have the amount of time to do the field of study justice.


    Mapping in the Deleuzoguattarian sense is not only compelling for geography teacher education, but also for geography education at large. This type of activity opens up conversations about other ways that geography can be explored by thinking about the flux and change of places and spaces. Deleuze and Guattari give rise to this type of thinking and validate our questioning of norms and the apparently static and the stable. What is frustrating about poststructuralism and new materialism but potentially empowering is that thinkers from these theoretical frameworks do not tell the reader what to do. Instead, they provide the tools to experiment, produce, and interrogate new ideas. While many of these theories come across as dense and difficult, there are so many opportunities and ways to see new possibilities with these ideas in mind. This is similar to how some of the best teachers teach. They present tools to students instead of telling students exactly what to think, how to do something, or what to remember. These teachers give students a toolkit to make sense of the world, not a list of instructions. The want for explicit instructions challenges us daily in teacher education. Preservice teachers are often frustrated because they want teacher educators to give them specific pedagogical methods. They want to know what sorts of lessons and resources they can use in a classroom that will make them feel successful and promote learning amongst their students. While this is certainly a component of teacher education, a total emphasis on this is not practical in the long run. We want to empower students with the confidence to think for themselves so that when they are met with new and challenging situations in their classrooms, they can use critical thinking to deal with the problem, instead of reaching for a pre-fabricated method.
    Photo by JackBet
  16. 16. FINAL WORDS

    Although this paper features just one class assignment, the reconceptualization of mapping has relevance to a whole host of contexts related to geography education. While a teacher educator could go out and recreate this activity with other preservice teachers, this is not my intention. I instead wish to show how we can go about teaching geography in untraditional ways that students are already familiar with to come to new and complex understandings of space and place. Making things relevant to students is important and impactful on their daily lives and their future roles as teachers. If we can work with preservice teachers to do away with some of their false preconceptions of the field of geography, we might have the opportunity to have more thoughtful geography instruction at the P-12 level.