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GIS & GI Science. Lecture 1. What is Geographic Information Systems?. A set of tools for analyzing geographic data and making maps. Definitions A computer system that can capture, store, query, analyze, and display geographic data.

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what is geographic information systems
What is Geographic Information Systems?

A set of tools for analyzing geographic data and making maps.



  • A computer system that can capture, store, query, analyze, and display geographic data.
  • A combination of computer cartography and database management.
  • “A powerful set of tools for storing and retrieving at will, transforming and displaying spatial data from the real world for a particular set of purposes.” -Peter Burrough
  • “Automated systems for the capture, storage, retrieval, analysis and display of spatial data.” -Keith Clarke

“An information system that is designed to work with data referenced by spatial or geographic coordinates. In other words, a GIS is both a database system with specific capabilities for spatially-referenced data, as well as a set of operations for working with the data.” -Jack Estes

  • “A GIS is a special case of IS where the database consists of observations on spatially-distributed features, activities, or events which are definable in space as points, line and areas to retrieve data for ad hoc queries and analyses.” -Ken Duecker

From: Geographic Information Systems and Science, 2nd ed. (Paul Longley, Michael Goodchild, David Maguire, and David Rhind)

The Basics of GIS:













gi science
GI Science

A discipline that incorporates cartography, remote sensing, and geographic information systems.

the three elements of gi science
The three elements of GI Science
  • Individual: Research dominated by cognitive science. Understanding spatial concepts, learning and reasoning about geographic data, and computer interaction.
  • Computer: Research about representation, adoption of new technologies, computation, and visualization.
  • Society: Research about issues of impacts and societal context.
gis applications
GIS Applications

Modeling the Environment of the Salton Sea with GIS:

advantages of gis
Advantages of GIS

GIS maps

  • Are interactive
  • Allow for exploration and inquiry
  • Allow you to choose features of interest for display

GIS allows you to view the world in ways pertinent to a specific industry or topic.

the five phases of development
The Five Phases of Development
  • The Research Frontier
  • Experimentation and Practice
  • Commercial Phase
  • User-Dominance
  • Web-Based Internet GI-Science

Web Based Timeline of GIS

the research frontier late 1950s to mid 1970s
The Research Frontier:late 1950s to mid 1970s

Individual Led Development

  • 1958 - NASA - Data Availability
  • 1968 - Apollo 8 - Returned 1st Images from Space
  • Lack of Computing Resources
  • 1960’s - Early computer mapping packages
    • Harvard - SYMAP, IMGRID, CALFORM
    • Isoline Maps
  • 1969 - Jack Dangermond began ESRI
experimentation and practice mid 1970s to early 1980s
Experimentation and Practice: mid 1970s to early 1980s
  • National Agencies Driving Development
  • Government Funded Research
  • NOAA Established
  • NASA: huge data increase (SPOT, LandSat)
  • Role of the Individual Diminished
commercial phase mid 1980s
Commercial Phase: mid 1980s
  • Corporate Software available - competition
  • PCs becoming popular - individual market opening up
  • Isolated systems running GIS & isolated data sets - minimal sharing of data
  • GPS becomes fully operational
user dominance 1990s
User Dominance: 1990s
  • Strong competition among software vendors
  • Databases began to become distributed
    • Internet becomes operational
    • Network accessibility more common
  • Development of Standards
    • Quality control
    • Data tracking (Metadata)
web based internet gi services shift late 1990s present
Web-Based Internet GI Services Shiftlate 1990s - Present
  • Distributed and Interoperational Architecture
    • Data resides and is distributed over a network
      • Limitations - Requires high speed and wide bandwidth (Network Capacity)
    • Standardized Data
      • Data is not platform or program dependent
  • Google Earth, ArcWeb Explorer, National Map
history of gis longley goodchild 2005
History of GIS (Longley & Goodchild 2005)
  • Controversy about the true history of GIS (parallel developments in North America, Europe, and Australia)
  • First period of innovation
    • Canada created the first GIS (1960s)
  • Second burst of innovation (late 1960s)
    • US planned to conduct the 1970 Census of population
    • The DIME program creates digital streets
  • Computers begin to be used for mapmaking (late 1960s)
  • (In 1995, Great Britain is the first country to have a complete digital map of the country)
  • 1950s: first military satellites took photos of the landscape
  • 1960s-1970s: from photography to remote sensing (sensing radiation from objects and converting wavelength values into an image); new civilian remote sensing systems (the LANDSAT satellite)
  • Modern GIS took off in the 1980s (computer hardware becomes affordable)
  • First GIS customers are forestry and natural resource agencies
  • First GIS computing system: $250,000; First GIS software: $100,000
  • The GIS industry continues to grow: GIS software continues to grow, and computers continue to fall in price and increase in power

GIS in the Workforce

Lecture 3

gis is a key emerging and evolving industry according to a u s department of labor 2003 report
GIS is a key emerging and evolving industry, according to a U.S. Department of Labor 2003 report.

Advanced Manufacturing






Financial Services

Geospatial Technology

Health Care

Homeland Security


Information Technology



The geospatial industry is a focus of president George W. Bush’s High Growth Job Training Initiative."Targeted Industries
investment in gis a top high growth industry
Investment in GISA Top High-Growth Industry
  • The market for geospatial technologies in 2002 was estimated at $5 billion. This market is projected to have annual revenues of $30 billion by 2005
  • $20 billion in the remote sensing market and $10 billion in the geographical information systems (GIS) market. (Gaudet, Annulis,Carr)

Careers in GISGIS is a cross-disciplinary field and is found in the classrooms of many academic departments including those listed below.
  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Business
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Humanities
  • Law
  • Library
  • Military Science
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Natural Sciences
  • Public Health and Medicine
  • Physical Sciences
  • Social Sciences


what do gis professionals do
What do GIS professionals do?

GIS professionals use GIS to visualize, analyze, and model systems to help in the planning and decision-making processes of their organizations.

They make geographic information accessible to scientists, planners, decision makers, and the public.


gis careers typically include positions such as
GIS careers typically include positions such as:
  • Cartographic designer
  • Computer programmer
  • Database administrator
  • Project manager
  • System administrator
  • Surveying
  • They also encompass business development, managerial, and administrative roles.
gis professionals are educated in three main ways
GIS professionals are educated in three main ways:
  • Through special certificate programs at colleges and universities (most common)
  • Through degree programs at colleges and universities
  • As part of the curriculum in other specialties such as while pursuing an urban planning degree


getting started with geographic information systems clarke 2001
Getting Started with Geographic Information Systems (Clarke 2001)

GIS is a Multibillion-Dollar Business

  • The field of GI Science has grown rapidly
    • Cost reductions in technology since 1982
    • Almost every major academic institution in the US and many other countries now offers at least one GIS class
    • Most local, state, and federal agencies use GIS
    • GIS is also used by businesses, planners, architects, and people working with the physical environment
GIS has a role in society
    • GIS is used in decision making
    • GIS is used in public settings like town meetings (Participatory GIS)
  • Different groups use the same GIS software and data in different ways
    • People determine the purpose of GIS