The World Right Now

“What’s Going On?” – Marvin Gaye

Right NOW

The World Right Now

The Well conferencing system used to have a series of topics called “Status”; finally on the Web, on steroids (or Google).

“David Troy, a software developer in Maryland, has created a Web site called Twittervision that superimposes this public timeline on a Google map. Every few seconds, a tweet appears and vanishes somewhere on the globe. It is an absorbing spectacle: a global vision of the human race’s quotidian thoughts and activities, or at least of that portion of the species who twitter.”

Tarzan in the Forest of the Media

The World Right Now

A quote from an art show catalog from some years ago.

“…the flow of electrons around us in today’s world penetrates the hard shell and reaches our body. Our physical being has realised that it is once again linked with the external world by means of a flow of electrons such as a computer network… Unlike the hard shell we used to be armoured with, the media cladding is light and flexible and protects us from and controls the profuse flood of information.”

Toyo Ito

Tarzan in the Forest of the Media

Group Mind Detecting Threats

The World Right Now

Bruce Schneir likes this one – “This program has a lot of features I like in security systems: it’s dynamic, it’s distributed, it relies on trained people paying attention and it’s not focused on a specific threat.”

“Highway Watch® participants – transportation infrastructure construction, maintenance and operations personnel workers, commercial and public truck and bus driverstruck drivers, transit personnel, buses drivers, and other highway sector professionals – are specially trained to recognize potential safety and security threats and avoid becoming a target of terrorists. The Highway Watch® effort seeks to prevent terrorists from using large vehicles or hazardous cargoes as weapons…Highway Watch® training provides Highway Watch® participants with the observational tools and the opportunity to exercise their expert understanding of the transportation environment to report safety and security concerns rapidly and accurately to the authorities…Highway Watch® has recently added a new component to its program, School Bus Watch, which is specifically targeted to the needs of school bus drivers.

Threat Awareness in the Comfort of Your Own Phone

The World Right Now

For at least the threats that can be seen.

“The government will soon be sending warnings of national emergencies on wireless phones, Web sites and hand-held computers. The new digital system will update the emergency alerts planned — but never used — during the Cold War in the event of a nuclear strike. More likely, these 21st-century technologies will carry warnings of natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The Homeland Security Department, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, expects to have the system working by the end of next year.”

Body Mod for Meds

The World Right Now

Awareness of the world right now includes the world inside you. Medical monitors get more portable, now wearable. Next stage is internal monitors, which converges with the developing world of sensors. I myself am about to buy the bodybugg Calorie Management System (alas).

“BodyMedia provides continuous body monitoring solutions for individuals, healthcare practitioners, and the broader healthcare industry. Our products accurately monitor health and lifestyle information such as caloric burn, caloric intake, sleep, physical activity duration, and more. Anytime. Anywhere.”

Vino Culture

The World Right Now

Here’s an example of how business interest will trump clumsy political budget cuts in earth sensing.

Part of Frascati’s Controlled Origin Denomination – a wine’s legally demarcated home region – was surveyed in ultra-sharp detail using an airborne radar sensor both before then after last October’s harvest. This two-stage ESA campaign was called BACCHUS-DOC, and was intended to complement a number of radar and optical satellite acquisitions by ERS-2, SPOT, Landsat, IKONOS and QuickBird…Following processing of raw data, the results are now under study by a team from ESRIN, ESA’s European Centre for Earth Observation located within the area of study, and the nearby University of Tor Vergata. In particular they are investigating to what extent the BACCHUS-DOC airborne and satellite radar imagery is sensitive to vineyard surfaces and the change in biomass following the grape harvest.

What, Me Worry About the Global Environment?

The World Right Now

There is reason to suspect the general political stance of the administration and the Republican party, seeking to deny global warming and other environment consequences of unfettered industrial activity, leads to this kind of activity undermining the growing self awareness of the species. But this shortsightedness will be overcome by equally compelling business reasons for increasing the data available in these scientific areas. Still, pretty irresponsible.

“On 5 June, the U.S. government decided to strip several climate instruments off a suite of polar-orbiting satellites intended to provide the next generation of weather and climate-monitoring data for military, civilian, and scientific users.”

Where It’s At

The World Right Now

Along with Google Earth and others, MapHub seeks to extend awareness of peoples thinking and acting about the geographic coordinates they can find and reach.

“The purpose of MapHub is to serve as a spatial forum for the residents of the City of Pittsburgh to find and share information about their community…MapHub is being used by bicycle safety Non-Profit Bike PGH! to collect information from cyclists about where they were hit or injured around the City of Pittsburgh. The neighborhood of Homewood is using MapHub technology to drive a website that makes information about services such as after school programs easily accessible. Many other organizations are working right now with our team to create interactive maps for use on their own websites.

Organizations can deliver map based information quickly and easily and can make changes and corrections in real time. Information that is hard to obtain and is usually only exchanged by word of mouth in communities can easily be collected online. Any way you use MapHub, your data is easily managed, shared, and maintained by members of your organization and the public.”

Visualizing the World Right Now

The World Right Now

I noted in a post last week that the UN and other agencies with lots of data don’t do enough to make them accessible to citizens and useful as monitoring tools. Here’s a tool for data visualization – sure are purty.

“These screenshots and animations are simply intended to give a feel for what visualization and navigation in Walrus are like. The data shown are not necessarily meaningful in themselves.”

Tell These Guys About Viridian Design

The World Right Now

So the United Nations, which I think at heart is progressive and evolutionary in its goals and philosophy, is mired in a certain amount of bureaucratic rather than solutions-oriented thinking. The UN Department of Early Warning and Assessment, in contrast to the Earth Charter Action Tool, is a place to get reams of data rather than user-friendly, intuitive summaries. Maybe the practitioners find this useful, but this doesn’t build the grassroots support for their lofty goals.

“The GEO Data Portal is the authoritative source for data sets used by UNEP and its partners in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report and other integrated environment assessments. Its online database holds more than 450 different variables, as national, subregional, regional and global statistics or as geospatial data sets (maps), covering themes like Freshwater, Population, Forests, Emissions, Climate, Disasters, Health and GDP. Display them on-the-fly as maps, graphs, data tables or download the data in different formats.”