Although IDRE Technologist Yoh Kawano has spent more than two decades working with geographic information systems (GIS) – technology designed to help visualize, analyze, and interpret data – he said when he first arrived at UCLA he had no prior knowledge of GIS. It was only when he took a class on the subject while pursuing a master’s degree in urban planning that he became acquainted with, developed an interest in, and later went on to pursue a career in GIS as a research coordinator at UCLA’s Institute for Digital Research and Education.
As an organizer of GIS Day 2016 at UCLA on Wednesday, November 16 at the Charles E. Young Research Library, Kawano hopes to offer an opportunity for both those who have never used GIS before and those who consider themselves experts to come together for a day of artwork, speakers, and mapping. GIS Day at UCLA will feature a UCLA Geography aerial photo exhibit, a TEDxUCLA Salon event, and an interactive mapping event aimed at both new and experienced GIS users.
GIS Day is a global event that was first officially celebrated in 1999. While Kawano said UCLA has had a version of the event on campus in the past, it had been largely limited to the Department of Urban Planning and the Department of Geography. This year the event will be hosted by IDRE and the UCLA Library, in partnership with the Department of Geography, Luskin School of Public Affairs, Center for Digital Humanities, and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, with the goal of broadening the event’s audience.
“We are trying to reach out to the entire campus,” Kawano said. “GIS has become a tool not just professionals can use.”
Kawano added that much has changed since he began working with GIS in the mid-1990s. He said when he first started working with GIS programs it was a very niche market and only professionals had access to the kind of tools needed to make professional looking maps and platforms. However, he said in the wake of Google Maps making its mapping technology open so users could imbed Google Maps into their own websites, everything has changed.
“Back then you needed the right technology, you needed to install the right software, you needed to have a server, and then you needed to configure everything on your own,” he said. “(Now) you can really do this on your own.”
The photo exhibit comprises a set of historical photos of UCLA taken between 1918-1971 that amount to tens of thousands of images. Kawano said the entire history of UCLA is recorded in the aerial photographs and the set brings memories of the past back to life through photos tied to specific campus locations.
Following the exhibit, TEDxUCLA speakers will include UCLA Associate Professor of History and African-American Studies Kelly Lytle-Hernandez, who incorporates GIS visualization into her research, and UCLA Department of Geography cartographic consultant Matt Zebrowski.
Kawano said the day will culminate with a “Mapathon,” an event where volunteers will have the chance to digitally connect and map areas of the developing world that have yet to be digitized. The Mapathon will be hosted in conjunction with Missing Maps, a humanitarian organization that helps to map areas in the developing world to assist international NGOs better address crises in these places.
Space at GIS Day is limited; to ensure your attendance, register today.