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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Thursday assignment

GIS, as Dorling and Fairbairn write, is a very democratic medium. Mapmaking is no longer reserved for the wealthy, the government and the military. Anyone with access to data and GIS software can make a map. The maps can be made and used by individuals, neighborhoods, libraries and city planning groups. Increasing amounts of data for the maps are publicly available. The maps can show numerous layers of data and the layers can be turned on and off. GIS maps are easily changed and updated. Furthermore, maps communicate the creators’ ideas and goals differently, sometimes better, than text and statistics. Maps allow data to be seen. The greatest potential benefit of GIS belongs to community groups working to improve their cities and neighborhoods. Maps help groups carry out their tasks and are used to propose projects and solicit funding from city government.

GIS, however, is very labor-intensive. Libraries that implement GIS, for example, need a large amount of time for training staff and for instructing users. They need the proper hardware and software. They also need money. Despite the decreasing costs of GIS software, it is still expensive. Not all libraries can afford it, let alone community groups. Also, GIS shares the same risks as other digital information: systems crash, files get lost and information is not preserved. The greatest potential threat of GIS is its tendency to emphasize an area over an individual. Rather than serving people based on who they are and what they do, GIS causes people to receive service based on where they live.


At 10:03 AM, Blogger Molly said...

I really like what you said about GIS causing services to be given to people based on where they live. I think that really relates to the Spicker article we read for Tuesday. He was trying to prove that there are poor areas, but that a poor area doesn't mean that everone in that area is living in poverty. As soon as one labels an area as poor, people in that area are affected and the services those people receive are also affected.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger umaysay said...

I agree with Caroline. The most difficulty in using GIS is lack of resources. Particularly, many non-profit community groups and movement groups are not enough to use and maintain GIS for their goals because of the cost.
Then, what is an alternative for the fitfall? At least, the falks, who learn and use GIS, might be able to take a close look at all presented maps from all sorts of media and to criticize the manipulated facts.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Ben said...

Though the software and hardware is cheaper, the issue of the datasets remain. The government probably collects most of the information available, yet who's to say when they'll release it? I wonder what the lag time is for the publishing of some of this data - especially for time-sensitive issues. I'm thinking primarily of migratory patterns of caribou herds in ANWR and pollution emissions from the oil factories. That's just an example. By the time studies are done, native animal populations may already have been decimated.

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Christy said...

Caroline - I have to agree that in some ways GIS and mapping in general does emphasis the area rather than the individual. While generalizations for an area can illuminate new information, it is just that - a generalization. But while a generalization can be true for the individual in a given area, may not be true for each person. It can be de-humanizing. People and their situations are reduced to symbols or colors on a map. I think it's important to remember that the maps have real people behind them.


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