Future issues of GIS – Goodchild reading

 Goodchild’s (2010) summary of the progress of field-defining debates in GIS over the last 20 years points out several issues. He briefly reminds us of the GI Systems vs. GI Science debate, lists advances and newly identifiable theories in GIS, and poses important questions for the future. Of these issues, two stand out to me as the most pressing for public perception of GIS and the nature of GIS’s data.

How GIS manages to formalize the representation of spatial phenomena across scales is crucial to a wide range of fields. Current tools such as inverse distance weighting allow for interpolating and assigning weights based on geographic location. Even the now-ubiquitous way Google Maps has visually represented different scales (finer details visible only when you zoom in close) has changed how the public imagines different levels. The widespread impact of how GIS represents different scales has enormous potential in facilitating negotiations and public opinion on battles that require mass coordination, such as mitigating climate change. Imagine how the limitations of our current national environmental regulations could be exposed if intuitive software was developed that could easily show the origin and travel of acid rain clouds from individual factories.

Goodchild’s second major point involves the future of volunteered geographic information (VGI) in a world that is increasingly wired and sensored. There is a major deterrent to continued VGI contributions when the “knowing where everything is, at all times” is not properly regulated to handle privacy concerns. This also brings into question how much data in the future will be comprised of VGI, and how much by private interests. The proper intersection of convenience, security, and quality needs to be discussed to ensure that the average citizen’s VGI is fairly represented and is not repurposed by private companies.

– Madskiier_JWong

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