Using GIS Technology to Map Urban Neighborhoods

I continue my research on black males, and have made significant progress over the last few months.  But recently I developed a new interest in geographic information systems (GIS) and how the technology can be used to map urban neighborhoods.  Initially, I used Google Maps to examine neighborhoods because I simply wanted to see the name and location of certain streets.  However, I switched to ESRI GIS products after I reviewed the scholarly literature and found that just about everyone was using ArcMap, ArcGIS Online, or similar programs to create maps  I also found that ESRI offers free products to educators who work in K-12 schools and that the company appears to be friendly and supportive of children.  Checkout this video from a 2016 conference.

GIS is a way of seeing the world, or at least a neighborhood, from a bird’s-eye view.  People use this technology to examine real estate trends, map flood risk areas and even study air plane bird strikes.  Urban planners use it to make decisions about building construction and simulate traffic patterns.

GIS can be used to examine the context in which education takes place.  Dr. Mark Hogrebe, used ArcMap, to uncover how Black male high school students in St. Louis were not being prepared to take advantage of a nearby biotechnology job market.  Research conducted by Dr. Terrance Green showed that urban neighborhoods can be places of opportunity.  In his examination of 2 poorer urban neighborhoods in Detroit, he found a number of positive institutions including houses of worship, hospitals, schools and community centers.  These studies are crucial because they show how geospatial technology can be used to highlight the relationship between place and space, and add perspective to neighborhood-level research.

At first, I had a hard time learning ArcGIS Online because it has a high learning curve and I didn’t know the lingo.  There was all this talk about shape and CSV files, hot spots and base maps.  I kept at it though, and have learned enough to collect data and run some basic analyses.  I will share more information about how I use GIS Technology to map urban neighborhoods in the future.



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