I want to add to Christy's idea that map "readers" need to apply critical reading skills and tactics. Selected readings from this week made me ask if we needed to take criteria for evaluating websites and apply it to maps, especially maps created with GIS--further, those presented in electronic format on the Internet. These criteria are: Who is the stated author (what are their credentials)? What organizational affiliation does the author have (or is it a geocities site)? What is the purpose of the author/sponsoring organization(educational or other)? And so on...All the criteria helps to decide if the source is reputable, and the information valid. Anyone find any blatant abuse of GIS mapping capabilities on the web?
I think the strength and weakness of GIS is its malleability. Ultimately, the individual creating the maps has authority over the information presented, the visual message created and overall effect. This flexibility is not a characteristic associated with maps, pre-GIS. For me, it was a shift to consider maps as a medium for combining and creating data, taking maps beyond a representation of the already known. A classmate posted that maps are often taken at face value, and I am an example of that, previously approaching maps without an evaluative eye and pretty much taking what I was fed. Working with GIS has exposed the weakness in that approach, and it is not just relevant to electronically created maps. As Dorling and Fairbairn point out, map propaganda is evident/present in textbooks!
The ability to instantly alter and create maps in (somewhat intuitive) computer software makes mapping available to an exponentially larger audience. The persuasive and powerful presentation effect of GIS should not be ingnored. The functions and possibilities of GIS are many, and this also creates some questions. Why is GIS not used more (by the public at large)? Will there be a day when a GIS map is as commonplace in a SLIS classroom as Power Point slide? Is the price attached to GIS suites purposely restrictive? Just how extensively is GIS used in private business?