The amount of geospatial data available at a global scale is undeniably more than ten years ago and will certainly continue to grow in quality and quantity in years to come. Designers are utilizing this mass of data to fuel international work and basing many design and planning decisions off of geospatial data.
We can weigh this as both positive and negative and give numerous reasons for both ends of the spectrum (pragmatic concerns of accuracy, meta data reliability, consistency, growing design markets, less time required on site, etc.) However, one question that stands out is how geospatial data is impacting the cultural component of international design and planning efforts. With such an abundance of data covering the physical and social landscape it is easy to plan and plan well for sustainable landscape ecologies, profitable economies and successful development goals.
If we visit sites less because of geographical and economical constraints when working in the international realm and rely more on the abundance of geospatial data that can be viewed on our screen, what happens to the cultural layer of proposed design solutions? How much does understanding place change when we enter a site with preconceived notions developed by analyzing data before the visit? Do we bias plans more towards the type of data we have? To this end, are we seeing a paradigm shift in site analysis now that geospatial data is so abundant?
In response to this quandary one must ask how can we better map culture and what would this mean, what would this look like and how could we use it to make more informed design decisions in the international context? As designers, we have the ability to transform the notion of data into an entity that captures sense of place. It is culture and diversity that combine to make places special - in a world shrinking through hyper data flows we must ask how new data can be entered into the system, in 2D, 3D and 4D forms.