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Geographers envision ‘Next-generation digital Earth’

US: UC Santa Barbara Professor of Geography, Michael Goodchild, envisions the next-generation of digital Earth as being more “local instead of global”. Things that happen to be important to those who live in the area should be part of the area’s maps, according to Goodchild, though they may not be the standard political or topographic fare of the traditional globe. “There’s more of a social perspective now, and less emphasis on permanent objects,” Goodchild wrote in paper titled, ‘Next-generation Digital Earth’. The paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper is co-authored by several geographers including Goodchild.

The paper further observed that the next generation of Digital Earth has to move away from the “exaggerated precision” of the current generation, allowing for uncertainty, and also for the various contexts and environments that a Digital Earth is able to access.

Additionally, according to the paper, collaboration between multiple infrastructures and open-source partnerships will be necessary for the next generation Digital Earth, as well as a code of ethics that will allow the technology to strike a balance between universal access and universal protection.

“Privacy is less important to the younger generation,” noted Goodchild, pointing to things like Facebook and similar social media engines, “but we need the ability to opt-out or be invisible. It’s getting increasingly difficult.”

Despite the move away from ultra-high precision in mapping, however, there continues to be an overarching need for the next generation Digital Earth to be scientifically accurate, and it’s the scientific community’s job to ensure that accuracy, Goodchild observed.

“It’s the problem we have when major corporations produce scientific software,” Goodchild said, citing Google Earth’s inclination to satisfy 90 percent of its users. Scientists are part of the remaining 10 percent, he said.

“We ought to insist that scientific standards should be followed,” said Goodchild.

Source: UCSB