2029: Disaster Movie
Title text: Really, they'd be rushing around collecting revisions to go into the next scheduled quarterly public data update, not publishing them immediately, but you have to embellish things a little for Hollywood.
Disaster movies are a sub-genre of movies, which resolve around a disaster, such as a natural disaster, worldwide disease pandemic or an attack. Typically, the plot of a disaster movie is how the main characters escape the disaster, avert its climax or deal with the aftermath of the disaster. Here, Randall has subverted this plot device by showing Ponytail call for a GIS survey team to map out the result of the disaster. Instead of panicking for survival, the scientists are rushing to update their data sets.
"Lava entering the sea, and new rifts opening to the north" may be a reference to the 2018 lower Puna eruption, a volcanic event on the island of Hawaii. Due to this eruption event, lava did enter the Pacific Ocean. As of the time of publishing, this event was still occurring.
GIS ("geographic information system") is a computer system that stores and analyses spatial and geographic data, and by extension, the profession of experts who use computers to make maps and perform spatial analysis.
Presumably, a "GIS survey team" would go above the affected area in a helicopter, mapping the coastline changes caused by the natural disaster. A "GIS survey team" presumably means a team of geographic surveyors. However, surveying is usually carried out on the ground, and surveying is not usually considered part of GIS. Also, these days, satellite imagery is usually used for this purpose, as there are several companies that can provide imagery refreshed as often as every day. Finally, a "GIS survey team" would most likely be one of many companies that provides these kinds of services, not "scientists", as suggested in the caption. An example of this is an ArcGIS map of the mentioned 2018 lower Puna eruption.
A Shapefile is a proprietary data format for spatial data which remains in widespread use, despite being created in the early 90s, and based on an even older database format. Amongst non-GIS people "shapefile" is often used synonymously with "geographic data", regardless of the actual file format. "Our coastline shapefiles" then means "our geographic data for the coastlines", although such data would most likely be stored in a database, not a Shapefile.
The situation described (scrambling to update geographical datasets in the advent of natural disaster) is actually a common occurrence these days. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team's Disaster Response unit does almost exactly this: When there is a natural disaster in a location that lacks high quality GIS data (common in much of the developing world), a team of volunteers across the world mobilises to update and improve OpenStreetMap. They use the latest available satellite imagery, usually donated free for the purpose. Disaster response teams then use the GIS data in OpenStreetMap to create maps and plan their response.
The title text refers to the fact that most GIS datasets are not published in "real time", but, rather in updates every 3 months or less often. This is due to the many manual steps still present in many GIS publishing and consuming workflows, which preclude more frequent schedules. Thus, there is not as much of a rush to do their updates, and the need is not as urgent as the proposed film would show. Randall claims the urgency was exaggerated for dramatic effect, humorously disregarding the fact that neither version of this scene would be dramatic to a typical moviegoer.
- [A fraction of an office with two desks is shown. On the right Cueball sits behind a computer while in the middle Ponytail talks into a radio device with a small antenna. On the left Megan runs into the scene holding something like a tablet computer in her hand.]
- Megan: The lava is entering the sea, and new rifts are opening to the north!
- Ponytail: Get a GIS survey team in the air! We need to revise our coastline shapefiles!
- [Caption below the frame:]
- I want to make a disaster movie that just shows scientists rushing to update all their data sets.
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