Saturday, May 10, 2008

What's Shaking?

This weekend I am attending reunion events for my old prep school, Polytechnic High, across the street from the California Institute of Technology, and catching up with alumni from my class of fifty-something graduates, many of whom entered fields dependent on computer-mediated communication, such as digital effects, technology journalism, and interactive storytelling.

At lunch, I sat with Linus Kamb, a software engineer for the IRIS Consortium, which is composed of an international group of research organizations that collect and analyze seismology data. As someone who frequently lambastes bad government-funded websites (such as those in this annual list of digital worsts or this one), I particularly liked the fact that this initiative actually had a sense of appropriate public rhetoric for their subject matter.

In the spirit of participatory culture and collective intelligence, upon which this kind of ambitious multi-location project depends, they encourage visitors to the site to set up their own seismic stations. They have a great list of links to seismology software and manuals for earth-science hobbyists and educators as well. One of the most popular parts of the site is the easy-to-use clickable map on their Seismic Monitor, although the information aesthetics were somewhat primitive. For the terrestrially-minded, IRIS also helps to maintain another worthwhile scheme for data representation, Earthscope. Definitely a set of sites worth checking out.

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