Some events, like birthdays, weddings, and graduations, are easy to mark on the calendar. Others, like the beginning of a social movement, or a language—or the invention of GIS—are harder to pinpoint. However, the confluence of three pivotal events in 1962 and 1963 makes this as good a time as any to celebrate a half century of GIS. Continue reading
Years ago when introducing GIS, we often talked about the five essential parts that make for a successful implementation–hardware, software, data, methods (or procedures), and people. These same five parts are still valid today, though their context has evolved considerably over time.
Hardware, software, data, and methods are challenges that we can manage in straightforward ways. We can understand what needs to be done, and we can identify the solution.
The latter ingredient–people–is the most complex factor. It’s the wildcard of GIS, and is also the primary key to successfully lifting a GIS off the ground, nurturing its growth, and (perhaps more importantly) keeping it relevant over time.
Esri’s Education team is often asked: Does GIS have value for kids? What kinds of things do students, teachers, and administrators do with GIS?
Yes, GIS does have huge value for kids as well as adults! Today’s youth are tomorrow’s decision makers and GIS users. “Geo-Literacy“—the ability to use geographic understanding and geographic reasoning to make decisions—is a critical skill for addressing the tough issues affecting global health and community life. It’s also crucial to students’ personal success.
Dr. Stephen Ervin is as vibrant as his day of birth—Mardi Gras. Like the celebratory day itself, Ervin is animated, larger than life, and full of contagious energy. He has spent two decades working at Harvard University teaching courses, speaking at conferences, and authoring books about his passion—the intersection of computing, design, and science. “Geodesign has taken over my life,” Ervin chuckles.
The Assistant Dean for Information Technology at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Director of Computer Resources, and lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Ervin still somehow manages to find time to evangelize and promote the principles of geodesign in various ways around the world.
An intelligence-led approach to offender management
The May 2011 decision by the US Supreme Court ordering California to ease prison overcrowding by aggressively reducing their prisoner population sent shockwaves through the California corrections and law enforcement community. It also served to put the other states on notice as well. For California, the result has been the release of thousands of prisoners into communities at a time when state and local police are ill-equipped to deal with them, and parole and probation agencies are already overburdened and understaffed. The consequence is that there are now significantly more offenders requiring community supervision, but fewer personnel to meet this need. The subsequent increase in caseloads requires local agencies to work smarter and work together—in essence, to have an intelligence-led approach to community corrections. Continue reading
Following are a few notes from my talk at the 2012 Esri User Conference. You can watch the complete video here.
Geography is our platform for understanding the world. GIS is making geography come alive. GIS condenses down all of our data, our information, our knowledge, and our science into a kind of language that we can easily understand: maps.
Maps help us integrate and apply our knowledge. Maps also tell stories—stories about almost everything in our world. We need to harness the power of maps to design the future and create better outcomes.
I’m very confident that we can do this. One reason is that GIS itself is advancing; it’s getting more powerful and it’s getting easier to use. It’s evolving with lots of new capabilities. It’s moving to the cloud and becoming more pervasive. GIS has evolved mapping to a new level, creating geography as a platform.
For many years, Bill Miller directed the development of Esri’s training and support infrastructure. Later as an engineer/architect, he was intimately involved in the design of Esri’s state-of-the-art corporate headquarters and conference center. Perhaps his best-known contribution to the GIS community was development of the ModelBuilder environment released as part of the ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension. More recently, he came out of retirement to rejoin Esri and head up a new Geodesign Services effort.
Miller’s vision for the integration of geospatial technologies with the design process was long shared by a group of people that included UC Santa Barbara’s Michael Goodchild, Esri President Jack Dangermond, Harvard University’s Carl Steinitz, and a handful of others. Miller took the first step towards making this vision a reality when he assembled a small team to develop ArcSketch, a free sample extension that allowed users to quickly sketch features in ArcGIS. ArcSketch was Esri’s first small step toward what is now commonly referred to as “geodesign.”
Fulfilling the potential of geospatial technology
Spatial thinking and geospatial technologies remain unrealized opportunities for much of higher education. For example:
- There’s now compelling evidence suggesting that spatial abilities prepare students for success in STEM coursework and early employment. However, no college or university includes such preparation among its overarching general education objectives.
- Despite the synthetic power of the spatial perspective, research discoveries too often remain segregated and hidden in disciplinary silos.
- For nearly a decade, the US Department of Labor has highlighted career opportunities associated with geospatial technologies. Still, relatively few higher education institutions offer advanced, practice-oriented educational programs to prepare students for such opportunities.
- Geospatial technologies enable students to perform valued service learning projects in their communities. Even among those colleges and universities that have institution-wide service learning programs, however, precious few prepare students to leverage GIS.
- Enterprise GIS infrastructures offer the potential to save money in campus planning, operations, and facilities management. Given the severe fiscal challenges that confront most higher education institutions, it’s remarkable that so few institutions have realized this potential.
You may have noticed that Esri has been using several terms to describe maps that are enabled for the web and mobile via ArcGIS Online.
We’ve described web maps as one of the key features of ArcGIS Online. We’ve told you how you can create web maps that combine a base map, your own map services, previously published services, and point data derived from spreadsheets. They’re the suite of capabilities that enable maps to be internet-enabled, mashed up, shared, and published while retaining links to data sources. The core of a web map is a small set of instructions that pull together basemaps, services, and other items. They can be widely distributed by embedding them in websites or enabling them on tablets and smart phones.
“That’s another thing we’ve learned from your Nation,” said Mein Herr, “map-making. But we’ve carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?”
“About six inches to the mile.”
“Only six inches!” exclaimed Mein Herr. “We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”