Lab 1: What’s Your Map For? and Mappable Data

Update 6/6/2022

50 points
Assign: Wednesday, Aug. 31
Due: Wednesday, Sept. 7

What’s Your Map For?

Maps are made for a reason, so every map has a purpose that includes the map’s audience and final medium. While you are making your maps in this class as an exercise, it is still important to define a purpose, audience, and final medium for your project before you start your project. Material from Making Maps, ch. 2 will help you shape details about what your map is for (in this Lab) and you will refine this purpose as part of Lab 6: Mid-project Evaluation.

Mappable Data

Mappable data has location information associated with it.

A tree is at a particular latitude/longitude, there are 10,000 people in a county or a certain number of restaurants within the limits of a particular city.

Often you have to convert locations into latitude and longitude to map them out. This is the process of geocoding. For example, to map out all the faculty at OWU given their home addresses, you have to convert street addresses into latitude/longitude. Sites like GPSVisualizer allow you to do this on the web, and you can also geocode on sites like Google Maps or in software like ArcGIS Pro.

ArcGIS Pro vs. Desktop: we will eventually be using ArcGIS Pro for our projects. This is a significantly updated version of what was ArcGIS Desktop. Both Pro and Desktop are on the computers, and make sure you are using the correct (Pro) version of the software.

It is easy to create your own mappable data. For example, Google Earth Pro allows you to save locations (latitude/longitude) in a KML / KMZ file. KML = Keyhole Markup Language, KMZ = the same file, but compressed (both work the same, except you can’t open and see the lat/long data in a KMZ file).

  • Google Earth Pro: is installed on computers in the GIS lab, or you can download it onto your own computer (here).
  • Fly to your home (using address or place name). Get as close to your actual home as possible.
  • Click the pushpin icon (“Add Placemark”): a window will pop up and your located home will flash. Add a descriptive title, including your name, in the name box, such as Where John Krygier Grew Up. But use your name. Hit OK to save the placemark.
  • Right mouse click on your newly created placemark and select Save as… and save the file (in KML format) somewhere where you can find it. Put the file in your shared class folder and let me know it’s there. I hope to import all the placemarks into Google Earth for a fabulous tour of homes.

KML stands for Keyhole Markup Language which is simply a file with latitude & longitude for a point (or group of points, or lines or areas). Basic geographic data. Google Earth used to be named Keyhole Earth Viewer! A KMZ is a KML that has been compressed (which is not necessary unless you have a large file). For this class, use KML files.

The WWW is a great source for existing digital mappable data too, some free of charge and some for a fee. In this exercise, you will select a U.S. state (or group of adjacent states) you are familiar with or interested in. You will then locate mappable data that can be used in your lab project.

This Lab has you locating two different formats of population data, by county, in your selected state, for 1900 to 2020 (every 10 years). The US Census is the original source of this information, but the data is available in many other places.

The Details

1) Choose a state! Do choose a state you are interested in or know something about (or want to know more about).

If you choose a small state, do a few (eg., Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts together). You can also do a few adjacent states: the Dakotas, Washington, and Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado & Utah, or Florida & Kentucky: this will give you a good sense of the regional characteristics of population change. It is a bit of extra work but not difficult to do.

Don’t choose Alaska, Hawaii, or Canada (which isn’t a US state).

2) Pick a computer you will use for the semester in the GIS lab

Make sure you are not logged into your OWU Windows account and are logged into the LABPUBLIC account. This ensures ArcGIS Pro works correctly and that you can print for free. Not that you have to print anything in this class.

Go to the C: Drive on your computer

  • Open the Courses folder, then Geog 112 
  • If the folder does not exist, create it: Right-click on window >> New >> Folder
    • Hey Skinny! Make sure these folders are not on the computer desktop. The GIS software we are using (ArcGIS Pro) may not work correctly if your files are on the desktop! ArcGIS Pro is not guaranteed to work properly off of an external drive (despite what Rowley says!). You can try it if you want, but you will have access to saving stuff on the C: drive.
  • Within the Geog 112 folder create a new folder
    • Change the Name of the folder to your last name (eg., Krygier, for me).
    • double click on your folder
    • Add three more new folders inside your folder: ArcGIS Pro, HTML, Data

TIP: Please be tidy with your files: keep ArcGIS Pro files in the ArcGIS Pro folder, HTML files in the HTML folder, etc. Throw away old versions of files. And save your files with logical names so you know what they are. Keep the file names short, and don’t use any punctuation or spaces (use an underscore instead of a space: class_project.txt)

Another TIP: How do I back up my work? Zip your personal folder: in Windows, right mouse click on the folder, then Send to and Compressed (zipped) folder. Then copy the zipped file to your Google Drive account.

Open a word processor

    ex) MS Word, or a simple text editor (Windows Notepad)

Create a New document in the word processor and Save it in your personal folder on the computer. This file is your lab log. I would call mine KrygierLabLog. You should add any and all relevant information to this file regarding your lab project from this date forward: this includes all the stuff I ask you to do for each lab. Please date the entries.

  • In Lab 2 we will convert your lab log to a WordPress blog and use that for the rest of the semester
  • I will use the lab log/blog to review your work and determine your Lab grade.

3) What’s Your Map For?

It’s important to consider the purpose of your map, its intended audience, and the final medium early in the map design process.

Please sketch out (make up!) your sense of your map’s purpose, audience, and final medium.

Review the issues in Chapter 2 of Making Maps and answer the following (no more than a paragraph each): you will get to revise this as part of Lab 6 Mid-Project Evaluation (so just do the best you can for now).

  • What is the overall purpose of your map?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What do you expect the viewers of the maps you create to know?
  • What is the final medium for your map (it will be on the WWW) and how might this affect the way your map is created and put together?

The purpose and audience can be anything: for a middle school social studies class, for historians, for a college human geography course, etc. All of these audiences have particular needs (ex., middle school kids probably need more explanation than college students; certain audiences may need more details about the maps themselves, how they are classified, etc.).

4) Searching for Mappable Data

You need to find, for your state or states, population data, by county for 1900 to 2020 (every 10 years), as collected by the US Census. Please find two sources of this data in two different formats (spreadsheet, text file, HTML, PDF, etc.). This way, we are mostly assured that at least one of the data forms will work for our project.

You probably don’t need instructions on how to search for stuff on the internets. Let me know if you need halp.

  • Don’t stress yourself out over this task! Give it the old college try and document what you find, even if the data does not seem right.
  • Absolutely do not compile your data into a spreadsheet from different sources: just document the location of the source data. We’ll combine it later.

Spook-Free (allegedly) Search: If you seek privacy, try using a search engine that allows for anonymous searching, such as DuckDuckGo.

Go to DuckDuckGo. Search for something sketchy (bunnies, clowns, sketchy Florida, etc.) related to population (or not, if need be), something you would not want the NSA or CIA or FBI or our corporate puppeteers to know about. Please, no neked ladies, gentlemen, or cat videos. Document your dangerous search, and tap out a few thoughts on the issue (as summarized at DuckDuckGo.)

Please write one paragraph about what you find and problems you encounter in your lab log: be critical! Again, think about yourself in a real-world job, still having to find this data for your grumpy boss. How easy is it to find the data you need at the US Census WWW site?

Note: if you don’t find the data, don’t panic: just write down what you think of the Census Bureau’s WWW site in your comments. Actually, never panic.

5) Documenting your Data Sources and other Information

When you find your Census population data please note the following in your lab log for each of your two sources:

  • The Title of the Document
  • The location of the Document (
  • The format of the data

HEY CHUCKLES! Check that you have the total population for each of your counties for each US Census since 1900 up through the last count in 2020. Please search around each site and see if you can find any information on copyright or usage issues with the data. Document what you find in your lab log.

6) Saving / Downloading the Data

Save each of your two data sources in your Data folder. Make sure to keep file extensions on the original data intact.

Be prepared to show the instructor your data on the due date.

7) Which form of your data is best? You may find text (.txt) or .pdf or a Word document of your data. Which is the best format? Depends on what you are doing with it! We are headed to ArcGIS Pro via Excel. Googles around and find out which of the data formats you found should work best. Jot down what you find.

8) Locate information relevant to your State (or region) and Information on Population Change.

Using the searching strategies you learned above, locate at least 5 WWW sites that provide information on your state that may be relevant to your project. Do spend a little time exploring around and make sure you get some decent sites (don’t just use the first few you find). Save the locations of these sites (http:// …etc.) in your lab log.

Also find at least two sites that explain issues of population change in your state or the US. This task may be a bit more difficult, but do see what you find and, again, document what you find, and the URLs, in your lab log.

Finally, locate at least 10 sites of importance to your state (or states) and its history using Google Earth. Annotate them as you create them in Google Earth. Save these as placemarks in Google Earth. We will use them for part of the next exercise.

9) Back up your personal folder (with its three different folders for your HTML, ArcGIS Pro files, and data).

That is it! Easy as cheese (although not all cheese is so easy). Your beloved instructor will check that you did the two searches (and wrote up your comments) and that you found and downloaded the data file and located some informational WWW sites on your state or country and on population change during the next lab. Don’t panic if you can’t find the data after a long and arduous search. The instructor or a fellow student can pass along the actual secret location of the data and you can download it.

Completing the Lab

By end of class on the due date: put Lab 1 entry in a document in the shared folder. This should include

  • your KMZ file of home (in shared folder, email Krygier)
  • your state or states (Step 1)
  • your “what’s your map for” (purpose, audience, medium) thoughts (Step 3)
  • several paragraphs about your search strategy for your population change data and results (Step 4)
  • documentation of the data you found (title, location, format) (Step 5)
  • copyright or usage issues with US Census data (Step 5)
  • 5 WWW sites with information relevant to your state (history, population, etc.) (Step 8)
  • 10 WWW locations relevant to your state (saved in Google Earth, exported as a single KMZ file) (Step 8)
  • Any problems with this lab, and solutions to the problems