Thursday, May 22, 2008

Windy City Excursion

I'm traveling to Chicago this weekend to attend a conference with some grad-student friends. Chicago is one of my favorite cities, so it should be a good time. I'll post about it while I'm there, hopefully with some decent pictures.

In preparing for the trip, I searched Google Maps for my hotel's location. Has anyone noticed they have added Wikipedia to the maps of most areas of the country? If you toggle the option on, dozens of tiny W's pop up, each representing a Wikipedia page corresponding to that location.

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Most of the articles relate to architecture and geography, but one can assume Google is adding more every day. This is such a useful idea. Along with street view and the photos option, you can get a pretty realistic account of a place, beyond simple geography. It's one thing to read about local attractions in a book or on a website, but integrating that information into a map allows you to see at a glance where in space it's located. When I visit a new place, I try to form a map of it in my head, based on the real map, and refer to it as I go. This just makes that easier. Information association and merging of this sort is really powerful, and it seems like a lot of new web applications are going in that direction.

Aside from conference talks, I plan to spend some time at one of the main museum campuses.

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I've been to the Field Museum multiple times, but wouldn't mind going back, it's so good. The Shedd Aquarium, however, I haven't been to, so that's on the list of things to do.


Nick said...

Yeah that wikipedia feature is killer. Here's hoping they update iPhone maps with it come 2.0.

Ben said...

Wow, that was fast. I was actually going to update this with some information from cognitive psychology/neuroscience showing that memory formation is stronger when one bases it on integrated information of multiple types, like visuospatial, semantic, etc. When you can form a story in your head, with interconnected bits of information, you are much more likely to remember it. Google is just helping us do that, and most people don't even realize. I'm pretty sure they implement this idea into therapy for Alzheimer's patients, have them record detailed accounts of the mundane tasks they have to do so as to better remember them. It's also a good studying technique.

What do you think, Google builds the first hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy? Maybe they can start with the United States.