EMERGENCE OF GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEM AS A SCIENCE
Shadrack Kipchirchir Kimutai Moi University 11/4/2012
Introduction A number of definitions have been brought forward to define geographical information science. The simplest of these definitions defining it as a science behind geographical information systems, which in turn contains technology, people, software’s, hardware’s and geospatial data. Geographical information science(GIScience) is at times referred to as geomatics and builds and organizes knowledge and information from a photogrammetry, geodesics and cartography to form explainable and testable information regarding their respective observations. Other definitions have been brought forward various researchers for example Mark(2000) defines geographic information science as the basic research ﬁeld that seeks to re-deﬁne geographic concepts and their use in the context of geographic information systems(GIS's). Factors that led to emergence of GIScience Geographical information science spans back to the early days of man. Early humans discovered the art of cartography in an attempt to represent and understand their surrounding environment better. This was through raw sketches on the walls of the caves they lived in or on the soft soil. As time advanced, these simple sketches were transferred to portable materials like the stone, papyrus and skin and later to paper and eventually to computers. Over this time, demand of accurate, up to date information and incorporation of multidimensional data have made cartographic methods complex and dependent on other technologies such as ICT’s. Unlike cartography, photogrammetry is rather a new field in science which emerged with the advent of photography and has been absorbed into the greater family of geographical information science. This is one of the methods through which cartographers use in generating topographical maps. It involves usage of specialized cameras built into specialized planes or low orbit satellites such as Landsat 2 to obtain a mosaic photograph (geospatial data) of the land from which different layers of the geographical landscape can be deduced. Since the geographical structure of the earth is complex there is a need for a form of coordinate system to be put in place. This coordinate system is referred to as geodesic and includes the latitudes and longitudes. All these merge to into cartography and related fields and get processed by information systems to relay information which is valuable to the user. Geographical information science as any science tries to answer a number of questions that arise from the use of GIS i.e. the science behind geographical information technology, people, GIS software’s and hardware’s and lastly geospatial data. Therefore GIS addresses the following:-
1. Representation of the complex geographical features that make up earth such as how these features are captured and represented in a computing device. 2. Under this focus, this science aids in understanding fundamental considerations that will aid a user of a GIS to know where and how to sample. It also aids in defining the appropriate data formats to be employed. 3. This science also aids in selecting appropriate representation of the geospatial data and helps the user to know to the accuracy required by the representation. Accuracy in this aspect covers predictions, representation and also decision based on the representation. This also addresses data since the interest of minimizing its volume thus maximizing the speed of compatibility of systems handling this data clashes with improving the accuracy of the representation. Another factor that this science addresses under this point is the compatibility of the representation to various individuals and how individuals may wish the representation to be. 4. After having a representation, the next challenge that the science addresses is the assessment of a representation to make sure it’s appropriate. This includes measure its accuracy of a given representation hence uncertainty and presenting them in a way that its meaningful to the end user. This also addresses how such information is to be presented in a way that it can easily be understood. 5. Another important factor that this science focuses on is the Human GIS interaction. The Geographical information systems are complex software’s. Thus, there is need for the underlying complexity to be abstracted from the user. This science aids in studying ways which the GIS can be made user friendly i.e. it addresses questions such as “How can individual representation be made to suit users?” 6. Another fundamental backbone of this science is studying how geographical Data can be handled with ease. Bearing in mind that this data spans over various dimensions. Therefore, this science addresses appropriate geospatial data storage and retrieval techniques. It also aids in providing the knowledge required to transfer data from different GIS. 7. This science also addresses how the GIS can adapt to the every changing field that is computing. In that it addresses questions such as how the GIS can take advantage of the present technological advances and improve on its weaknesses.
Mark , D. M “Geographic information science :Critical issues in an emerging cross-disciplinary research domain” Journal of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association, 2000 12(1):45–54.
T. Sutton, O. Dassau, M. Sutton “A Gentle Introduction to GIS” Bhisho, University of Eastern Cape, 2009