Geographic Information Science

Nadine Schuurman

in Geography

ISBN: 9780199874002
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Geographic Information Science

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  • Earth Sciences and Geography
  • Human Geography



Geographic information systems (GIS) are the collection of software, hardware, outputs, personnel, and practices that together facilitate the analysis and mapping of geographic entities and phenomena. The field of geographic information science (GIScience) broadly explores the theory and concepts underpinning GIS and related geospatial technologies such as remote sensing and the Global Positioning System (GPS). The technological history of GIS began in the 1960s with the first rudimentary systems developed primarily for storing land information and for basic visualized outputs of geographic entities. As the technology progressed and permeated throughout the private sector, government, and academia—especially during the latter half of the 1980s and early 1990s—a growing cadre of scholars began to examine theoretical, conceptual, and intellectual questions related to the technology, in the process creating a new science of geographic information. Michael Goodchild, a geography professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, made the first description of this area of inquiry during the 1990 Spatial Data Handling conference. Goodchild subsequently published what became an agenda-setting paper in 1992 (Goodchild 1992, cited under General Overviews) outlining a justification for this focus, which was both influential and widely accepted. GIScience draws on numerous knowledge domains, including computer science, visualization, information technology, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science to create a theoretical basis for GIS. As a relatively new field of intellectual inquiry, GIScience has developed a body of knowledge with remarkable breadth and depth. GIScientists explore diverse issues including spatial data acquisition and quality, representation and visualization; the development of database and operational standards; scale, spatial analysis/statistics, and geocomputation; and the relationship between GIS technology and society. The topic areas chosen for this article largely reflect the consensus of the GIScience academy regarding the core themes of inquiry in this field, as discussed in the General Overviews section. Further, references to current trajectories and future directions for GIScience are scattered throughout this article.

Article.  10813 words. 

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography ; Human Geography

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