A Tiny Radio Show About Design with Roman Mars
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
I’ve recently wrote about the 99 Percent Invisible podcast and while it is not explicitly (or even always) geographic, it is loaded with excellent materials about design and the details of the world around us that often go unnoticed, but deserve greater scrutiny.
How did design lead to the the rise and fall of the mall? (see the oddly fascinating DeadMalls.com for photo galleries in your local area). How did the expansion of billiards end the horrors of the ivory trade and lead to the age of plastics? These are some of the questions that the podcast explores.
A hundred years ago, a Polish physician created a language that anyone could learn easily. The hope was to bring the world closer together. Today Esperanto speakers say it's helpful during travel.
"Ross McNutt has a superpower — he can zoom in on everyday life, then rewind and fast-forward to solve crimes in a shutter-flash. But should he?
In 2004, when casualties in Iraq were rising due to roadside bombs, Ross McNutt and his team came up with an idea. With a small plane and a 44 mega-pixel camera, they figured out how to watch an entire city all at once, all day long. Whenever a bomb detonated, they could zoom onto that spot and then, because this eye in the sky had been there all along, they could scroll back in time and see - literally see - who planted it. After the war, Ross McNutt retired from the airforce, and brought this technology back home with him. Manoush Zomorodi and Alex Goldmark from the podcast 'Note to Self' give us the low-down on Ross’s unique brand of persistent surveillance, from Juarez, Mexico to Dayton, Ohio. Then, once we realize what we can do, we wonder whether we should."
This is a great podcast to show the ethical ramifications of using advanced geospatial technologies. This shows the amazing potential as well as some of the privacy issues that wide-scale surveillance can raise.
Roman Mars is obsessed with flags — and after you watch this talk, you might be, too. These ubiquitous symbols of civic pride are often designed, well, pretty terribly. But they don't have to be. In this surprising and hilarious talk about vexillology — the study of flags — Mars reveals the five basic principles of flag design and shows why he believes they can be applied to just about anything.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I love flags; I enjoy thinking about the cultural, economic and geopolitical symbolism embedded in the flags and what that means for the places they represent. I share the above video for that purpose, but more importantly because it is an introduction to the audio podcast 99 Percent Invisible with a special ‘behind-the-scenes’ peek and how this podcast on flag design was made (and here is a snarky critique of all U.S. state flags). Great geography resources rarely fall under the title “Geography” with a capital G. It takes geographic training to “see the geography” in the world around us. I’ve recently discovered the 99 Percent Invisible Podcast and while it is not explicitly (or even always) geographic, it is loaded with excellent materials about design and the details of the world around us that often go unnoticed, but deserve greater scrutiny. For example the episodes on the Port of Dallas as well as reversing of the Chicago River show how the physical and human systems intersect within urban areas. These two geo-engineering projects also were conceived on in very particular social, economic and technological contexts.
I also loved the episode Monumental Dilemma, about the uncomfortable 1800s New England memorialization of Hannah Duston for scalping Native Americans…this is incredibly awkward culturally as our society and social values have changes over the years. Do we tear it down? Ignore it? Apologize? Since the historical legacy is unsettled, so is the monument. So I’ll keep listening to the 99 Percent Invisible podcast and please recommend some especially geographic past episodes as I dig through the archives.
"We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls 'de-facto' — just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income to move into middle class neighborhoods or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight. It was not the unintended effect of benign policies, it was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government, and that's the reason we have these ghettos today and we are reaping the fruits of those policies."
In Indonesia, efforts are underway to grow palms in a sustainable way. But that's putting a squeeze on small farmers.
Palm oil is in everything, from pizza dough and chocolate to laundry detergent and lipstick. Nongovernmental organizations blame it for contributing to assorted evils, from global warming to human rights abuses. But in the past year, this complex global industry has changed, as consumers put pressure on producers to show that they're not destroying forests, killing rare animals, grabbing land or exploiting workers.
For more than half a century, one small commercial radio station has been keeping French alive in the bayous of Louisiana.
Amid the celebrations this St Patrick's Day, there are also more somber commemorations taking place. In Mexico and in a small town in Galway, Ireland, they are remembering the hundreds of Irishmen who died fighting for Mexico against the United States: the San Patricio Battalion.
On St. Patrick's Day and afterward, many people shared happy pictures of Ireland, and that's lovely but I wanted this story. This is not a well-known story in the United States because it reveals the cultural prejudice against the Irish that was prevalent in the United States in the 1840s. I first learned about them in Mexico City, walking by a monument, that memorialized St. Patrick's Battalion. They were a group of soldiers that deserted from the U.S. army and chose to fight with their Catholic brethren on the Mexican side.
Questions to Ponder: Why are these historical events not usually mentioned in the U.S. national narrative? Why is this seen as very significant for Mexican national identity? What were the 'axes of identity' that mattered most to the those in St. Patrick's Battalion?
"Thanks to Fred Kunze for this growing set of MAGE educational podcasts. They are indexed according to the Minnesota Academic Standards in History and Social Studies benchmarks, keywords, and grade levels."
Did you know that MAGE has dozens of podcasts for geography teachers? Well, now you do.
"The research shows that kids who have tough childhoods — because of poverty, abuse, neglect, or witnessing domestic violence, for instance — are actually more likely to be sick when they grow up. They're more likely to get diseases like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. And they tend to have shorter lives than people who haven't experienced those difficult events as kids."
The hotspot maps of crime and poverty are correlated (not a big surprise), but this is another example of using spatial data to drive public policy. After making these initially correlations, they noticed a total lack of services, including medical care in the area that needed it most. This podcast is the story on how geographic analysis gave birth to a "clinic on wheels."
FEMA has coined a "Waffle House Index" to indicate the severity of a disaster.
A proxy variable is an easily measurable variable that is used in place of a variable that cannot be measured or is difficult to measure. The proxy variable can be something that is not of any great interest itself, but has a close correlation with the variable of interest. So if you can't order waffles after a big storm at Waffle House might not matter in the big scheme of things, but as this podcast demonstrates, it is a good indicator that the region has been serious impacted by a natural disaster--they are the canary in the coal mine that FEMA is using to help plan their relief efforts. This is in part because Waffle House's core area is in the South and is has a wide spatial network.
Nkem Ifejika meets with Nigerian entrepreneurs who show how the nation's economy is finding lubricants other than oil.
The shadow economy, the black market or the side-hustle; these are all names for the informal sector of the economy. In many countries such as Nigeria, this is a way of making money outside their normal jobs to boost their income and try to rise above just getting by. "It was my grandmother who taught my mum that if you were lucky enough to have a salaried job, that was just pocket money. The real money came from your five to nine." If working 9-to-5 represents the formal economy, this BBC podcast (and accompanying article) are all about the 5-to-9 economy.
There may be a counterintuitive explanation for the deep freeze that hit New England this winter: The rapidly warming Arctic is causing big disruptions in the jet stream, which carries weather across North America. Is this the worst winter you've experienced?
Robert Peston crunches the numbers as finance ministers meet for vital loan talks.
This audio clip shows how the Greek economic crisis is an issue on the national, regional, and global scales. This BBC video and article also provide some nice context, asking the question, what would happen in Greece quits the Euro?
Austin's Mueller neighborhood is a new-urbanist dream, designed to be convivial, walkable and energy-efficient. Every house has a porch or stoop, and all the cars are hidden away.
After moving here, respondents said, they spend an average of 90 fewer minutes a week in the car, and most reported higher levels of physical activity. The poll results seem to validate new-urbanist gospel: good design, like sidewalks, street lighting, extensive trails and parkland, can improve social and physical health. Part II: A Texas Community Takes on Racial Tensions Once Hidden Under The Surface.
"The battle between the Alamo garrison and Mexican President Santa Anna’s forces reads like a Shakespearian tragedy: greatly outnumbered, all the Texan defenders died. Even the men who surrendered were killed, fueling the outrage and critical mass required to swell the Texan army, become an independent republic, and in time choose to be annexed by the United States."
When we talk about sacred space we often think about religious sites first. Places like the Alamo or Ground Zero can be seen as critical parts of a national identity and as secular sacred spaces. Powerful social groups carefully construct memorials at places to strengthen a communal identity. What makes them tricky is they don’t mean the same thing to everyone—even within a cultural group.
Drexel University is taking a hands-on approach to redeveloping one of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods with a new center designed to serve not just students but mainly local residents.
This NPR podcast shows a good example of an urban revitalization project that is actively trying to avoid following the gentrification path. Growing colleges can unintentionally displace longtime residents, but this project is about preserving the cultural fabric of the neighborhood and building good will in the community.
"Prior to the 1960’s, the Aral Sea was the fourth largest lake and approximately the size of Ireland. Fed by both the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers carrying snowmelt from the mountains to the southeast, the Aral Sea moderated the climate and provided a robust fishing industry that straddled the present-day border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. For the map savvy, that Aral Sea would be almost unrecognizable—it has long appeared as two basins known as the North and the South Aral Sea since the rivers were diverted for crops, leading to the Aral Sea’s alarming shrinkage. Recent NASA satellite imagery shows the decline that the Aral Sea has undergone since 2000, leaving the South Aral Sea completely dried up in 2014. "
Inequality isn't just about money. It's also about information. The lack of reliable data about developing countries makes things like development work and disaster relief much harder.
There is 'mapping inequality' throughout the world; poorer countries often don't have comprehensive census information and geospatial data. Crowd-sourced mapping is seeking to change and improve geographic awareness, especially in moments of crisis. For example the maps of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea were essentially blank at the beginning of the Ebola outbreak but that glaring need meant volunteers were using geographic tools to improve developmental situations by providing more information.
"Summer 2014 brought a sight that had not been seen since 1941: the Charles W. Morgan leaving the Mystic River for the Atlantic Ocean, stopping at several New England harbors before eventually arriving in New Bedford, Massachusetts where the ship was built in 1841. The Charles W. Morgan is the last remaining wooden whaling ship in the world, and a National Historic Landmark."
Only two countries today are stilling whaling (Japan and Norway), but the whaling industry was a critical component to the settling of New England. Check out this Maps 101 podcast for short introduction to the historical geography of New England whaling.
Almost 10 years ago, a young Pakistani woman was held down by her mother-in-law while her husband and father-in-law threw acid on her. Some 150 operations later, Bushra Shafi is working as a beautician in a hair salon in Lahore, started by a hairdresser who was moved to help victims of acid attacks when one of them came into her salon and asked simply: "Can you make me beautiful again?"
"The Mexican tradition celebrates the dead and welcomes their return to the land of the living once a year. Enticing them to make the trip is where the food, drink and musical offerings come in."
Like many things in Mexico, the celebrations around the Day of the Dead are a combination of indigenous and Spanish traditions that collide to make something that is uniquely Mexican. This podcast goes through the symbolism in the cultural artifacts that are such a vibrant part of the festivities as does this Smithsonian interactive.
Corn is not what you think. For starters: Most of the time, it's not human food.
Land use practices that determine what is grown in a particular place are partly determined by the health needs of a local population, but they are more directly shaped by economic markets. Over 75% of the corn produced in the United States is destined for animal feed or fuel; since global population projections are now supposed to be 11 billion by 2100, these are some important issues for us to consider before we are forced to reassess our societal choices.