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Seismic Shifts from the Meeting of Geography and Information

Dr. Michael Goodchild. (Image credit: Chaosheng Zhang, National University of Ireland, Galway)

What do people call carbonated beverages in a can in various parts of the country? There’s a map for that. Want to hear stories regarding particular streets and locations in Toronto, Canada? There’s a map for that. Or maybe you’re interested in up-to-the-minute geographic information about a hurricane or a forest fire? Yes, there are maps for that too. World-renowned geographer Michael Goodchild, director of the University of California, Santa Barbara's Center for Spatial Studies, says these are examples of the changing face of geographic information systems or GIS. Gone are the days when authoritative professionals hold sole custody of analyzing data and generating new maps; they’re now augmented by community mapping, a form of citizen science whereby local people participate in geographically defining an area using distributed, real-time, social networks. Goodchild’s research in urban and economic geography, GIS, and spatial analysis convinces him that the rate of change in the way people create knowledge about geographic environments mirrors that of society… it’s accelerating and causing seismic paradigm shifts. See a video of Goodchild in a recent Distinguished Lecture presentation at the National Science Foundation and read his answers to the ScienceLives 10 Questions below.

Name: Dr. Michael Goodchild Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara Field of Study: Geography

Editor's Note: This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal agency charged with funding basic research and education across all fields of science and engineering. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the ScienceLives archive.