UNIT 1 - WHAT IS GIS?

Compiled with assistance from David Cowen, University of South Carolina

The new Core Curriculum II has an introductory unit which develops the concept from a Geographic Information Science perspective, and is worth reviewing.


For Information that Supplements the Contents of this Unit:

Application Areas of a GIS (Geographer's Craft) -- Natural resource management; land management; street networks.
Basic Terms and Concepts of GIS (Ludwig/U of Missouri)
Definition of GIS (Geographer's Craft)
GeoData Institute (U of Southampton) -- GIS terminology in glossary format.
GIS Glossary (B.C. Environment)
The GIS View of the World (Geographer's Craft)
Introduction to GIS (USGS)
What is a GIS? (Chrisman/U of Washington)
What is a GIS? (USGS) -- How does a GIS work? What's special about a GIS? Applications of GIS.
Glossary for The Geographer's Craft (Geographer's Craft)
GIS and Related Technologies (U of Western Ontario) -- GIS tutorials; overview of global positioning systems (GPS); satellite remote sensing.

  • A. INTRODUCTION
  • B. CONTRIBUTING DISCIPLINES AND TECHNOLOGIES
  • C. MAJOR AREAS OF PRACTICAL APPLICATION
  • D. GIS AS A SET OF INTERRELATED SUBSYSTEMS
  • REFERENCES
  • EXAM AND DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • NOTES

  • There are several ways you might consider beginning your introductory course in GIS. This unit attempts to put GIS into context. However, it lacks visual images and anecdotes that only the instructor can provide. There are several ways you may want to supplement this unit. Consider beginning this unit by showing an introductory video on GIS. A promotional video from a vendor demonstrating applications of GIS and types of output would be suitable. Or take the students into the lab and let them play with a packaged GIS demo.

    UNIT 1 - WHAT IS GIS?

    Compiled with assistance from David Cowen, University of South Carolina

    A. INTRODUCTION

    Objectives of this unit
     

    What is a GIS?
      Alternative names
      Why is GIS important?
      Why is GIS so hot?
      Market value of GIS
      B. CONTRIBUTING DISCIPLINES AND TECHNOLOGIES
      Geography
      Cartography
      Remote Sensing
      Photogrammetry
      Surveying
      Geodesy
      Statistics
      Operations Research
      Computer Science
      Mathematics
      Civil Engineering
      C. MAJOR AREAS OF PRACTICAL APPLICATION

    Street network-based
     

    Natural resource-based
      Land parcel-based
      Facilities management
      D. GIS AS A SET OF INTERRELATED SUBSYSTEMS

    Data Processing Subsystem
     

    Data Analysis Subsystem
      Information Use Subsystem
      Management Subsystem
      REFERENCES

    Bylinsky, Gene, 1989. "Managing with Electronic Maps," Fortune April 24, 237-254. Good review of the state of GIS in mid-1989 from a commercial perspective.

    Cowen, D.J., 1988. "GIS versus CAD versus DBMS: what are the differences?" Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 54:1551-5. Excellent review of the differences in these three traditions.

    Dueker, K.J., 1987. "Geographic information systems and computer-aided mapping," Journal, American Planning Association 53:383-90. Compares CAD, computer cartography and GIS, conceptually and also at some technical depth.

    Fisher, P.F., and R. Lindenberg, 1989. "On distinctions among Cartography, Remote Sensing, and Geographic Information Systems," Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 55(10):1431-1434. Reviews definitions of each of the three and shows how the disciplines are interrelated.

    Marble, D.F. et al., 1983. "Geographic information systems and remote sensing," Manual of Remote Sensing. ASPRS/ACSM, Falls Church, VA, 1:923-58. Reviews the various dimensions of the relationship between the two fields.

    Parent, P. and R. Church, 1987. "Evolution of Geographical Information Systems as Decision Making Tools," Proceedings, GIS '87, pp. 63-71, ASPRS/ACSM, Falls Church, VA. Good review of the history of GIS and its formative influences.

    Rhind, D., 1989. "Why GIS?," Arc News, Summer 1989, Vol 11(3).

    EXAM AND DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

    1. Compare the introductory chapters of a selection of GIS textbooks (e.g. Burrough 1986, Star and Estes 1990, Aronoff 1989). What do you learn about the diversity of definitions of GIS?

    2. Define GIS from the perspectives of a) applications, b) functions, c) system structure.

    3. Compare GIS to an airline reservation system. How do the information system definitions presented in this lecture apply to the airline reservation example?


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    Last Updated: August 30, 1997.