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ArcWatch: Your e-Magazine for GIS News, Views, and Insights

October 2006

GIS Develops into Powerful Medium to Communicate and Collaborate

By Jack Dangermond, Esri president

 
Jack Dangermond, Esri president, calls geography and GIS a new medium for communication and collaboration.

At the Esri User Conference in August 2006, I spoke about geography and geographic information system (GIS) technology emerging as a new communications medium, similar to radio, television, newspapers, and the Internet. I'd like to take this opportunity to share this concept with ArcWatch readers.

People are beginning to adopt and embrace a geography-based approach to problem solving and thinking about our world. GIS users are spearheading this trend, clearly demonstrating the value of using geographic knowledge and GIS tools to build applications in almost every discipline and field. Through their work, they are turning GIS and geography into a new medium for communication and collaboration.

GIS is a powerful information technology because it focuses on integrating knowledge from multiple sources and creating an interdisciplinary, collaborative environment. GIS also is attractive to most people who encounter it because it is both intuitive and cognitive. It combines a powerful means of visualization with a strong analytic and modeling framework rooted in geography. This combination has resulted in a technology that is science based, trusted, and easily communicated across cultures, disciplines, social classes, and languages.

Until recently, few people had direct access to the capabilities of GIS. This is changing as GIS technology fully emerges on the Web. For example, a GIS professional makes a map showing where a wildfire is burning and posts it on the Internet for others to see. This illustrates that GIS—like television—is a medium that allows us to author, publish, view, and share geographic knowledge. The Web, the new platform for GIS, is becoming geographically enabled. As the planet becomes fully wired, we will see more of this activity.

The combination of new GIS server technology and intuitive, easy-to-use Web clients opens up the GIS domain to many more people.

As a new communications medium, GIS helps people better understand and collaborate as well as formulate and tell stories about conditions, situations, and events, and even forecast the future.

Over time, GIS will be used more widely to create a common understanding of what we know about our world. This will provide many benefits to society and help us manage our future.

GIS professionals will continue to author and serve geographic knowledge. However, they will also increasingly support systems that allow other professionals in their organizations, as well as society, to have access to the power of GIS. This will mean that the influence of GIS will grow and provide a powerful medium for communicating information about our world.

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