A Spin Across Google Earth


I looked totally calm, but actually I was terrified that my Google Earth voyage would run aground in, I don’t know, Antarctica or someplace.


The team at School wanted me up there today to do a dry run through my audiovisual requirements.  I was at home sketching out a very plain set of notes when it occurred to me that they wanted me to come to a rehearsal because they thought I was going to pull a stunt like last year’s opening for Power Shift.

Now, I admit that I am something of a show-off about my slides.  I am addicted to fancy animations and such.  But I really took a risk last year and opened my talk with a jet ride across Google Earth.  I was wanting to demonstrate visually to people how little data we really have about the way women in remote areas engage with entrepreneurship, even though data collectors like the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor seem to cover the developing world.  In truth, the data collectors, if they reach a remote region, do so in such thin numbers that we really can’t say anything about rural women even if the country appears to be represented.

Since this kind of thing is the focus of my work–and it is hard to get out there and collect this data–I am always keen to point out these limitations.  Various agencies and foundations think we have data, but in fact the picture is too foggy (because the data too thin) to be actionable.  So I made this point via an analogy to Google Earth and then went on to tell the up-close and detailed stories of my respondents.

Well, you know, Google Earth is pretty cool and can be very dramatic, so the folks in the audience were impressed.  (And, actually, the young IT and AV guys were impressed, too, a fact I have traded on for 12 months now.)  But it was a high risk attempt and so, before anyone even arrived at Power Shift, I had the team in the auditorium trying to make it work for, well, hours.

Anyway, we all laughed about it today when I showed up with my Plain Jane slides for the 2014 opening remarks.  But it reminded me that I never uploaded the video of last year’s speech.  So here it is.  It’s a bit blurry, but the message comes through and if you have any Google Earth fieldwork experience, you can imagine how it played in a large, dark room full of viewers.

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