Last week our meeting focused on regrouping and catching up; the team hadn’t met together formally in six months, since June 2015, so there was a lot of housekeeping to do. But not just housekeeping, reunion too: Some of us have been working on this project for eighteen months or more: Alexis Carlsson, Bhavika Patel, Shreya Patel have been involved since September 2014, as part of the field work team; Britt Salen and Russ Zerbo, also part of the field team, have both been involved since spring 2014. Hined Rafeh and Eman Addish have been working on the project since last January; they began when we started data processing. New this term, we have Dalton George and Elisa Sarantschin from the STS/ENVP M.S. program, and Alex Skula and Daisy Manapsal from the M.P.H program. Cat Lowther joins us from the Environmental Studies program and Liz Ferris from Anthropology. It’s an amazing group! You can learn more about our team on our ‘People’ page.
This week we started by breaking out into our project teams. In our first meeting, I asked everyone to list out the activities that they’d like to be involved in this term: Data verification and pairing; GIS; qualitative coding; photos and block observation data; narratives; information reports; and article write up. Some wanted to work on and learn everything! Others were very specific about what they wanted to focus on. Either way, we can’t do it all at once; some things need to get done before others. The data needs to be verified before we can put it in GIS; we need to code the data before we can write it up.
Getting the software taken care needed to happen before any of the above. I’m happy to report that we now have six students with ArcGIS on their laptop. The team has some really interesting ideas about what to map. Elisa began teaching the GIS group how to assign lat/long information to data, such as our survey blocks; she then showed them how to import this into Arc. Next week we should be able to start playing around and making maps with public data. We’re still trying to figure out what, from our data set, can be mapping and made public. The block observation data certainly, but our survey data can’t be mapped at the block level for privacy reasons. So, we’re trying to find creative ways of representing our findings visually.
The other thing item that has been discussed by the group is whether to use ArcGIS or open software programs like Geojson, Mapzen, Mapshaper, and QGIS. Certainly these open source options feel more sustainable financially, but they may not be sustainable for students who are riding on access to Drexel resources, which are temporary; ArcGIS won’t be available to them through Drexel once they graduate. So why not use an open source option? I guess for me, ArcGIS feels like, because its proprietary its stable; not going anywhere. I feel less confident that open source software has that kind of stability, which is important because I have neither programming nor other development skills.
I should check back in with the team about this in a few weeks, to see how they are liking ArcGIS and whether we should try a different platform.