GIS: Tool or Science? – Wright

Over the past twenty years, opinions on what “’doing GIS’” entails have been debated. In “GIS: Tool or Science?” (1997), Wright was able to categorize “64 postings from 40 individuals” on a GIS-L forum into three groupings of what “’doing GIS’” means (346-347). Regardless of whether GIS should be defined as a tool, a toolmaker, or a science, Wright was able to present all three positions in an unbiased way, allowing the reader to determine their own opinions about the debate.

Wright mentions that there is not necessarily one ultimately correct or authoritative position, rather the entire “continuum” between tool and science should be equally acknowledged because all viewpoints use GIS for different purposes (358). Hence, maybe it does not even matter if “’doing GIS’” is correctly defined, maybe there should be a consensus that GIS can be applied in different ways and be accepted for different reasons.

Although the debate is still occurring, I believe that the article was outdated because technological advancements within the past twenty years have been tremendous. With smartphones, apps, and improvements in software, new GIS applications have been introduced; resulting in a larger group of people becoming more involved with GIS. It would be interesting to compare how Wright’s subsets’ define GIS to how current people conceptualize GIS.



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