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Is the Fourth Paradigm Really New?


Posted: Oct 20 2012 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Spatial Thinking, Community, Interpretation/Inference, History of Geosciences

Cover of Fourth Paradigm I have a long-standing interest in the use of data in education, so I've been reading with interest several articles and a book concerned with the so-called "Fourth Paradigm" of science, in which insights are wrested from vast troves of existing data. The Fourth Paradigm is envisioned as a new method of pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge, enabled by new technologies for gathering, manipulating, analyzing and displaying data. The term seems to have originated with Jim Gray, a Technical Fellow and visionary at Microsoft's eScience group, who was lost at sea in 2007. The first three paradigms, in this view, would be empirical observation and experimentation, analytical or theoretical approaches, and computational science or simulation. Earth and Environmental Sciences are well represented in the book, with essays on data-rich ecological science, ocean science, and space science.

I am finding these readings very stimulating and worthwhile. But I question whether this way of making meaning from the complexity of nature is really so new. More

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A more nuanced view of Concept-driven versus Data-driven visualizations


Posted: Mar 12 2012 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Interpretation/Inference, Spatial Thinking, Perception/Observation
In several previous posts, I explored how Clark & Weibe's (2000) idea of data-driven versus concept-driven visualizations plays out in geosciences and how this distinction could be important as we help students learn to learn from visualizations. This semester, in my course on "Teaching & Learning Concepts in Earth Sciences," students found and documented visualizations that afford insights via spatial thinking about a topic they are working on for a semester long project. Applying the idea of data-driven versus concept-driven visualizations to this image collection surfaced several additional nuances to the categorization schema. More

Bad Diagrams


Posted: Dec 14 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Spatial Thinking

All in all, I'm a fan of the New York State Earth Science Regents course and of the accompanying Earth Science Regents exam. New York state enrolls more students in high school level Earth Science than any other state, and confronting the common exam has helped to build a community of practice among New York State Earth Science teachers that is the envy of Earth Science teachers in other states. I especially like the emphasis on building and assessing representational competence–the ability to understand and make inferences from diagrams, maps, profiles, block diagrams, graphs and other visual representations.

However, I have to say that the most recent Earth Science Regents exam (August 20ll) had two really terrible diagrams, so bad that I think they are more likely to sow confusion than illuminate earth processes. More

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Data-Driven versus Concept-Driven Animations


Posted: May 28 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Spatial Thinking
One of my early Earth & Mind posts explored how Clark & Wiebe's (2000) idea of "concept-driven visualizations" and "data-driven visualizations" would play out in geosciences. A concept-driven visualization is generated from a concept or theory in the mind of a scientist or scientific illustrator. Although the concept was originally constructed from observations of the earth, the visualization itself is not directly tied to a specific empirical data set. In contrast, a data-driven visualization uses empirical data to formulate the visualization. There is a direct digital chain of custody from the data set to the visualization.

I now realize that a similar distinction can be drawn among scientific animations. We can think of "concept-driven animations," and "data-driven animations." More

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Does "form follows function" apply in geosciences?


Posted: Mar 18 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Energy, Spatial Thinking, Perception/Observation

"Form Follows Function." I've run across this idea a number of times, and it has tickled the spatial thinking part of my attention span. Cups, bowls, bathtubs, and spoons share a fundamental attribute–their concave upwards shape. This shape or "form" follows inevitably from the requirements of holding a liquid in the presence of gravity. Bird wings and airplane wings share a cross-sectional shape, flatter on the bottom and more rounded on the top, to perform the function of lifting the wing as it moves through the air.

I'd always considered "form follows function" to be a poor fit to most objects I care about as a geoscientist. More

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