Mapping at a Whole New Level

Charit Tippareddy

At the beginning of the course, we were each assigned a group that would tackle a certain program. Brandon and I were assigned to ArcGIS, the ultimate map making and editing tool that allows users to create, analyze, and publish maps. The goal of our project was to layer maps of the UMass Amherst campus from 1870 all the way to today. By layering the maps, we were able to see changes to the campus from its early start as the Massachusetts Agricultural College. It was interesting to see the spikes in building construction that made the university to what it is now.

The concept behind ArcGIS is a fantastic one, such that it has been emulated in hundreds of other programs. Of course, each one is used for something drastically different, but the concept remains the same. Fingerprint ID software marks down points, and tries to find common matches with other fingerprints in its database. Facial recognition also does the same by trying to find common points between two images. ArcGIS is different in that it allows a user to manually set those points, allowing them to compare two objects that have a lot of differences, and a few similarities. This allows comparison over large periods of time where change is inevitable.

This was the first time both of us had ever used ArcGIS, and I was impressed with the program’s depth. This turned out to be both a positive thing and a negative thing. It was positive because the possibilities were essentially endless. We could create anything and everything with enough time. It was negative because the possibilities were essentially endless. The enormity and complexity of the program was more than overwhelming, it was mind boggling. Without YouTube tutorials and help from Professor Poehler, we would have been completely lost. Even now with our project almost completed, we have barely scratched the surface. There is just so much more that could have been done. I learned a lot about the program; I think it is an excellent educational tool and mapping tool, but I believe that the possibilities with this program are not just limited to maps.

With a few minor tweaks, I think that the ArcGIS program could be used as a broad comparison tool. One idea that I thought would be cool was to take a picture of yourself every three months standing in the same exact pose. Since ArcGIS is able to adjust the picture, you can even take old pictures, and layer them all onto each other. Then, with ArcGIS make some reference points like the tips of your fingers, the bridge of your nose, and your feet. With enough pictures, it could show a very interesting transition through time. You can analyze your hairstyles, clothing styles, and accessories. It would be a timeline of you. With the 50 or so other toolbars that I did not even have a chance to even see, it is clear that there is a lot more to ArcGIS. Its applications in map editing are definitely incredible, but its possibilities to do other things are even more incredible.

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