Meet Wenjie Wang, the Scholarly Common’s GIS Specialist

Headshot of Wenjie Wang, wearing a black suit with a blue shirt and blue striped tie. Standing in front of trees.

This latest installment of our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features Wenjie Wang, Geographic Information Science Specialist at the Scholarly Commons. Welcome, Wenjie!


What is your background and work experience?

I worked as a Data Specialist at the Map and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC) in the University of Connecticut for five years. MAGIC is located within the Library’s digital scholarship lab, Greenhouse Studios, I worked alongside digital humanities and digital scholarship colleagues with a focus on utilizing geospatial data, GIS applications, and spatial data analysis techniques to contribute to projects within Greenhouse Studios as well as to support researchers at MAGIC. I have had the opportunity of working within diverse environments and my experiences have been enriched by working with students, faculty, staff, and the community from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

 

What led you to be a GIS specialist?

In my former role as a teaching assistant for Geography courses, I realize that introducing GIS tools and methods to students in the geography class is always a challenge, as students have very different educational and technological backgrounds. Many students lack the core comprehension of geospatial concepts, have not used or even heard of GIS software before. With MAGIC receiving over 5 million online users a year, I truly understand how important GIS could be in students’ research. I think my interdisciplinary interests can put me in a strong position to bridge conversations between individuals from diverse backgrounds and I can help them use GIS as a tool in their research.

 

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

I created maps to provide a quick and user-friendly way for communities to reflect on the differences in child outcomes across the local communities in Connecticut. My knowledge of GIS was utilized to analyze data and create maps to help match proven school readiness solutions with unique needs faced by communities for the organization. This is my first big project and it is very meaningful. I learned a lot from this project, so it is my favorite project so far.

 

What are some of your favorite resources that you would recommend to researchers?

I would like to recommend two data resources: IPUMS and TIGER/Line Shapefiles. IPUMS provides census and survey data, including tabular U.S. Census data, historical and contemporary U.S. health survey data, Integrated data on population and the environment, and much more. TIGER/Line shapefiles contain features such as roads, hydrographic features and boundaries. These resources are very useful for researchers who just start to use GIS since they are free and easy to handle.

 

If you could recommend one book or resource to researchers who do not have GIS background, what would you recommend?

Because many researchers just want to use GIS as a tool in their research field and they don’t have plenty of time to learn GIS, I would like to recommend Esri Training Web Courses. The courses are free and short. Through these entry level courses, researchers can easily learn what is GIS, how a GIS works, how to analyze and manage GIS data, and so on. After that, they will be able to know what kind of GIS technologies and data is useful in their research. And then they can focus on learning these parts.

 

What is the one thing you would want people to know about your field?

I would like to say GIS is not just making maps. GIS can help us make detailed and informative maps, but GIS can do much more than this. The most important part of GIS is its ability to help us think spatially and answer our questions. I hope I will be able to help researchers to understand GIS can be used as a tool in both problem solving and decision-making processes in their research.

 

Interested in contacting Wenjie? You can email him at wenjiew@illinois.edu , or set up a consultation request through the Scholarly Commons website.

It Takes a Campus – Episode Two with Harriett Green

Image has the text supporting digital scholarship, it takes a campus with icons of microphone and broadcast symbol

 

 

Resources mentioned:

SPEC Kit No. 357

University of Illinois Library Copyright Guide

 

For the transcript, click on “Continue reading” below.

Continue reading

Scholarly Commons Software: Open Source Alternatives

Hello from home to all my fellow (new) work-from-homers!

In light of measures taken to protect public health, it can feel as though our work schedules have been shaken up. However, we are here to help you get back on track and the first thing to do is make sure you have all the tools necessary to be successful at home.

Continue reading

Choosing an OCR Software: ABBYY FineReader vs. Adobe Acrobat Pro

What is OCR? OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. This is the electronic identification and digital encoding of typed or printed text by means of an optical scanner or a specialized software. Performing OCR allows computers to read static images of text to convert them to readable, editable, and searchable data on a page. There are many applications of OCR including the creation of more accessible documents for the blind and visually-impaired, text/data mining projects, textual comparisons, and large-scale digitization projects.

There are a different software options to consider when you are performing OCR on you documents and it can be challenging to understand which one is best for you. So let’s break it down. Continue reading

It Takes a Campus – Episode One with Dena Strong

Image has the text supporting digital scholarship, it takes a campus with icons of microphone and broadcast symbol

 

For the transcript, click on “Continue reading” below.

Continue reading

Open for Whom? Open Access Week 2019

Open Access Week is upon us and this year’s theme, “Open for Whom?” has us investigating how open access benefits the student population here at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to the Open Access Week official blog, this theme is meant to start a conversation on “whose interests are being prioritized in the actions we take and the platforms we support” towards open access. They raise an important question: Are we supporting not only open access but also equitable participation in research communication?

To explore this question on our campus, on Monday morning, we set out on an initiative to see how much our students are paying for textbooks this semester and asked how free, open textbooks would help them. How might having access to open educational resources such as textbooks help our student body participate in research communication and the academic community of the University?

At the four major libraries across campus, posters were set up for students to anonymously indicate how much money they have spent on textbooks this semester. They did this by placing a sticker dot on the poster that best fit their expense range, as pictured below. Alongside each poster was a whiteboard with an open question that students could answer: “How would free, open textbooks help you?”

Grainger Engineering Library "How much did you spend on textbooks this semester?" Results

Grainger Engineering Library Results

By Tuesday afternoon these boards were filling up with answers from students. While this was an open board to post their thoughts, of course, we had some humorous answers including: “More money for coffee, “I would cry less,” and “More McChicken.” However, despite the occasional joke, the majority of the answers focused on saving money. Many students commented on the tremendous cost of higher education and not only the high prices of textbooks but the additional costs of supplemental online workbooks provided by Chegg, WebAssign, or McGraw Hill – Connect. Students agreed that textbooks as resources for their education should be free and available. A worrying result of these discussion boards was students sharing the ways in which they illegally access textbooks in lieu of purchasing them; many sharing links to illegitimate websites.

Comments on the discussion board at Grainger Engineering Library

Comments on the discussion board at Grainger Engineering Library

Comments on the question "How would free, open textbooks help you?" in the Undergraduate Library

Comments on discussion board at the Undergraduate Library

Comments on the question "How would free, open textbooks help you?" in the Main Library

Comments on discussion board at the Main Library

So, open for whom? Open Educational Resources (OER) offer a more affordable option for students and educators to access a quality educational experience. The Open Textbook Library describes open access textbooks as “funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed” and open for everyone’s use. Higher education institutions are gearing towards OER instead of requiring traditional textbooks and for students who are choosing between paying rent or purchasing textbooks, this can be life-changing.

Learn more about Open Educational Resources and how to find, evaluate, use and adapt OER materials for your needs.

What are you thoughts?

 

Open Access Textbook Resources

OER Commons – Open Textbooks

Punctum Books

Virtual Museums

There is no doubt that technology is changing the way we interact with the world including that of centuries old institutions: Museums!

Historically, museums have been seen as these sacred spaces of knowledge meant to bring together a communities and historically, this also meant a physical space. However, with the heroine that is technology constantly amplifying in our everyday lives, there is no doubt that this would eventually reach museums. While many museums have implemented technology into their education and resources, we are now beginning to see the emergence of what’s called a “virtual museum.”  While the definition of what constitutes these new virtual museums can be precarious, one thing is in common: they exist electronically in cyberspace.

Image result for cyberspace gif

The vast empire of Digital Humanities is allowing space for these virtual museums to cultivate. Information seeking in a digital age is expanding its customs and there is a wide spectrum of resources available—virtual museums being one example. These online organizations are made up of digital exhibitions and exist in their entity on the World Wide Web.

Museums offer an experience. Unlike libraries or archives, people more often utilize museums as a form of tourism and entertainment but within this, they are also centers of research. Museums house information resources that are not accessible to the everyday scholar. Virtual museums are increasing this accessibility.

Here are some examples of virtual museum spaces:

While there are arguments from museum scholars about the legitimacy of these online spaces, I do not think it should discount the ways in which people are using them to share knowledge. While there is still much to develop in virtual museums, the increasing popularity of the digital humanities is granting people an innovative way to interact with art and artifacts that were previously inaccessible. Museums are spaces of exhibition and research — so why limit that to a physical space? It will be interesting to keep an eye on where things may go and question the full potential this convention can contribute to scholarly research!

The Scholarly Commons has many resources that can help you create your own digital hub of information. You can digitize works on one of our high resolution scanners, create these into searchable documents with OCR software, and publish online with tools such as Omeka, a digital publishing software.

You can also consult with our expert in Digital Humanities, Spencer Keralis, to find the right tools for your project. Check out last week’s blog post to learn more about him.

Maybe one day all museums will be available virtually? What are your thoughts?