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.