The Two (Geo) Cultures: Why GIScience and geo-tech rarely talk--and how open-source software provides opportunities for collaboration
Geographic information scientists at research universities and geo-tech developers in industry are working on many of the same geographic problems, and yet they rarely talk, they rarely use each others’ work, they rarely realize they’re asking the same questions, just phrased in different terms.
From the vantage points of "Research I" universities and of Silicon Valley start-ups and corporations, I've seen too many of these missed connections between the cultures of GIScience and geo-tech. I'll provide a few examples (from my own experience and from others working at the intersection of industry and university) of how research and application are almost--but not quite--informing each other. For example:
- OSRM (the Open Source Routing Machine) makes assumptions about how navigation systems should word turning instructions--instructions that go against findings from Penn State’s Human Factors in GIScience Lab.
- Most “slippy map” libraries plot all maps with north up, even though it’s been 32 years since an experimental psychologist at SUNY Stony Brook documented the advantages of aligning “You are Here”-style maps with users’ current orientation.
Where GIScience and geo-tech can best meet is, I think, in the building, refining, studying, and critiquing of open-source software. I’ll end by describing a few success stories from various partnerships, and I’ll also highlight opportunities to collaborate with Mapzen, an open-source mapping lab based in New York City and San Francisco, on mapping, search, navigation, transit, and geo-data projects.