GIS more than just maps

Ken Snyder's picture

Yes, we are all riding on the hype that Google Maps started, and the endless possibilities it provides. But looking at it from a planners/geographers perspective, are these possibilities really endless?

In the Directions magazine, Adena Schutzenberger points out:

     ... these services (Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSN Earth….) give programmers all the tools they need to make maps. Indeed. It may be time again to explore that age old question: what’s the difference between map making and GIS? The former is about presentation (“a map is a representation of structure, and a structure is a set of elements and the relationships between them”). While paper maps are not interactive, electronic maps may be, but that does not make them components of a GIS. GIS, its proponents argue, is more than just mapping; it’s analysis; it’s exploring what if; it’s using models; it’s developing more intricate visualizations

Later on she points out, that Googles proprietary Data and the inability to add data or dig into it via web service standards, shrinks the ability for professionals looking for more sophisticated webmapping functionality.

    …And, what of standards? When Bret Taylor, Google Maps Product Manager, was asked at Where 2.0 about plans to support OGC standards, he reportedly said he was not familiar with the acronym. Is an open API and an XML-based “storage format” or an RSS-based tagging procedure all it takes to set aside the work of a formal standards setting body? Or, perhaps we’ll have one set of standards (de facto?) for the consumer set and another for the professionals?

Everybody looking for Google Map like features (smooth panning and zooming, annotations on maps…) without setting aside solid webmapping functions (layers, queries…), should start looking into what the world of flash or svg based maps, hooked up to MapServer applications has to offer.

Some articles capturing the technology that Google uses - for private use.

If you want to start playing with it, look at what worldKit can do for you:

And don’t get us wrong, we love playing with Google Earth…

    -- Chris Haller/Ken Snyder - Orton Family Foundation/PlaceMatters

Ken Snyder is Executive Director of PlaceMatters


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