This Blog

This blog showcases the work done by students in Dr. Christine Erlien’s writing course “The View from Above:  Google Earth’s Impact.”  We focus here on sharing our knowledge of how Google Earth can (and is) impacting society (e.g., education, research, security, privacy, humanitarian response, etc.).

Google Earth

  • A free application that uses satellite and aerial imagery to produce 3-D visualization of the globe
  • Allows viewer to zoom in/out and rotate view
  • Provides the ability to find (“fly to”) places of interest; includes a business directory and directions
  • Includes multiple layers of geographical data, ranging from typical map layers such as roads and borders, to layers that include information about terrain, weather, the ocean, or issues of global interest (humanitarian issues, environmental issues, the Millenium Development Goals)
  • Includes a StreetView option that provides strete-level photos of cities around the world
  • Allows upload and display of additional data layers called KMLs

Course Description

The View from Above:  Google Earth’s Impact

Google Earth rocks! (Doesn’t it?!)  Well, let’s read, talk, and write about it!

Google Earth provides us with a virtual globe composed of satellite imagery, upon which many types of geographical data may be layered. Our writing will thus focus on questions concerning the use and display of satellite imagery and geographical data layers in Google Earth, Google Earth’s applications, and the privacy and security debates associated with its use.  We will discuss questions such as:

  • What is Google Earth?  How does it work?
  • Who is using this program?  How and Why?  (We’ll look at applications ranging from humanitarian issues, to education, business, science, and just plain fun!)
  • What questions does use of Google Earth raise for national security?  Privacy?  How might we deal with these issues?
  • Do the positive impacts of the technology outweigh the concerns raised?

We will address how Google Earth and its spatial data are applied in a variety of scenarios, from research, to environmental management, to education.  The course will employ a range of texts including newspaper articles, websites (the Google Earth Community, for one), popular science magazines, and blogs, in addition to academic articles. Writing assignments will be multiple and varied and will take place both in and out of class.  For example, we will make use of informal writing to reflect on the readings and help prepare for class discussion.  This informal writing, coupled with class discussion, will assist your development of short responses (1-2 pages) to readings.  You will select one of these short responses to further develop into your first major project (supporting a claim; 5-7 pages).  Our second major project will provide the experience of producing a review paper (7-10 pages), in which you synthesize primary sources on a topic related to Google Earth.  You will also be asked to make contributions to our course website (http://sites.duke.edu/tlge) throughout the semester.  Each assignment will provide you with the opportunity not only to articulate a position, but also to share your work with classmates as you produce drafts to which your peers respond.  This peer feedback will be integral to the revision process.

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