December 5, 2007

The geoweb doesn’t want to be GIS

Filed under: Open source, public geographies — ubikcan @ 8:16 am

Fantom Planet has a post noting that the Wikipedia entry on GIS doesn’t include “neogeography” (or whatever the name of bottom-up, people-powered mapping might be; I call it the geoweb right now) and going on to mount a passionate defense of neogeography.

But the geoweb/neogeography doesn’t want to be GIS. We have to stop thinking of GIS as the end of the road to which we’re traveling. For example, the CEO of MapInfo was recently reported as saying the geoweb is all well and fine “but it’s not GIS.” Correct–but it’s not meant to be.

Big GIS is a historical moment in the long tradition of mapping stretching back thousands of years as part of the human effort to “find our place in the world.” The geoweb is a challenge to Big GIS–this is why Jack Dangermond has such an ambivalent attitude toward it (saying that ArcGIS is the geoweb, but also at conferences saying that crowdsourced or volunteered data aren’t trustable).

This is why next week there’s a major workshop between academics and industry hosted by Mike Goodchild on “volunteered geographic information” as he calls it (ie the geoweb). Mike is probably the most respected proponent of GIS there’s ever been, so if he’s getting on the geoweb bandwagon that means something.

To coin a phrase, GIS is a phenomena of recent invention, and one perhaps as we knew it already nearing its end.

Update: Having written the above the next thing I see is this post by Peter Batty, who beat me to the punch. Well said, Peter.


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