The current heated debate on the opportunities to be gained from, and the usefulness of, adopting contact tracing and mobile tracking technologies to monitor and contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world has recently brought to light a topic that, until a few months ago, was considered to be exclusively the stuff of experts. This is digital spatial literacy, the ability to use the properties of digital space to communicate, reason, and solve problems.
A new dimension of this previously invisible and intangible world is now being revealed to us and we are beginning to explore it more. Thanks to special technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, we are also beginning to mould it. This perspective is not without its challenges but it becomes even more fascinating when you look at the so-called Geospatial Revolution, the evolutionary phenomenon of geographic culture that is rapidly expanding thanks to the digital transformation of contemporary society.
Although technology is an essential ingredient for the provision of increasingly user friendly and smart services, when technology meets people and places, communities need to become 'smart’ as well. This is so that an ecosystem of processes and technologies can be established which is capable of improving not only the physical places but also the lives of those who live in them.
Even the Public Administration, following the concept of Open Government, is no longer seen as an inward-looking institution but rather it promotes interaction with citizens, who must be encouraged to take part in initiatives as a way of contributing to the achievement of the aspirations and goals of their communities. In this way, the human element becomes particularly important; citizens take on a proactive and active role ("consumer-actor") as key contributors in the transformation of the public and private sector.
In this era of transition, geographic knowledge is essential if we are to act on this cultural change. Knowledge and understanding are needed of the following areas; (i) adult lifelong learning and the education of young adults, (ii) the opportunities generated by the convergence between geospatial technologies and IT processes, and finally, (iii) the current economic, social and environmental phenomena.
The Geospatial Revolution Open School is a new training proposal designed and implemented in Italy by the national association Stati Generali dell’Innovazione (General States of Innovation). It is aimed at large categories of citizens and has successfully aroused the interest and enthusiasm of adult learners with regards to "digital geography". The School offers an original training course for citizens who wish to learn how to connect "places" on the Internet with real-life places, thus merging digital and physical worlds and discovering that they are only superficially separated. The proposed training course offers participants the opportunity to approach the issues of public digital geographic data and its reuse while experimenting with innovative ways of communicating.
The general objective is to launch a connective intelligence process that combines local action with the global strategies of the Web, revealing the founding principles of the information about society's global strategies.
This general purpose has been addressed at the OpenGeoData School. The School is the first step in this approach and its design is based on the following specific objectives:
- to increase:
- the geographic information digital skills of the participants
- spatial literacy, relating to both the ability to use maps professionally and confidently and the ability to create digital cartographic representations, as well as the ability to think spatially (spatial thinking) in order to deal with situations and problems in our daily life, both within the wider society and the world around us;
- to create "experiential maps" about topics of local interest, developing geoblogging activities based on personal experiences of exploration throughout the territories, paying particular attention to the audio-visual editing of the repertoires which will be published as open geodata;
- to create conditions for the development of exploitation initiatives related to the selected topics of interest. These initiatives will help to highlight the particularities of the territory and enhance the self-narratives of the communities, starting from material cultures and the creation of geo-referenced thematic paths right through to experiential maps available as a mobile app (web app).
The course aims to facilitate the transfer of skills as a means of enabling the participants to start working with open geo-data. The course teaches the participants to collect territorial data, interact with OpenStreetMap and finally prepare the data for evaluation through a geo-CMS. This didactic technical path has been enriched with walkabout experiences, explorations and nomadic conversations with whispering radio systems, which "allow you to map the territory with words, making the user an integral part of the geo-referenced story".
In addition to the walkabouts, different interactive sessions are available to the participants, including:
- Talks and frontal lectures
- Open Talks - co-planning sessions
- Experience lab - experiential brainstorming
- Live Tweeting and storify editing (diaries that bring together tweets and photos)
- Online forum, for the web activity that guarantees continuity between the different sessions.
The OpenGeoData School is a training programme for all those who have a smartphone and normally use it to go on social networks, organise a trip, or find out information etc. Possible target groups are:
- experienced and potential promoters of local territories such as tour operators, hospitality and catering staff;
- teachers, journalists, communicators, etc.;
- public servants and representatives of rural and sustainable development associations.
The training initiative is also open to residents of the territory and its visitors. These are all indispensable actors for creating the right conditions to enhance the territory and facilitate its development.
Another step in the implementation of the Geospatial Transformation Open School approach is the Geospatial Data and Satellite Facilities Open School. This School is devoted to supporting the Copernicus European Programme User Uptake initiatives. Some courses have already started. These address topics relating to Copernicus data and services for agriculture and landscape. Another subsequent training event due to start will focus on sustainability.
For more information, contact Sergio Farruggia (email@example.com) OpenGeoData School coordinator.