The Power of Geographic Information Systems

Paper submission for: Professor Rick Miller, Summer 2015, Geog_138

Change in view = change in you. 

Never before has the world been quantified, graphed, marked, and charted at a more rapid pace than today. With the onslaught of smart this and smart that it may seem overwhelming to keep track of whats the latest gadget or gizmo. However the flip side to feeling behind the eight ball of technology is that with each upgrade comes faster processing times, which equates to an increase in the speed of communication at a global level. 

Take for example the application, STRAVA, which uses the built in accelerometer of modern smart phones to track the paths of cyclists or hikers in terrain previously defined by shades of green on a flat surface. STRAVA collects the data created by each individual user, geocodes it, and merges it with all other members routes of the same geospatial region. By embarking on this long term crowd sourced data collection STRAVA is the holder of an immense trove of first hand data. In tern the company offers the option to add to the basemaps of the program in order to create a more comprehensive visual representation of the topographic attributes of a locality. Furthermore the data is displayed through many methods in a user friendly comprehensive user interface that can be shared instantly to the world with the tap of a finger.


As the earth becomes tangled in the web of connectivity created by the internet, the notion of space and place comes into play. When ones view is increased whether it simply from a change in vantage point or the results of an extensive NASA funded remote sensing projected on a chloropleth map, the process of increasing visibility widens ones perspective on local range of comfortably.

On this conquest for the recording of our physical earth, the Geographer plays a vital roll in the translation of data into an easily understandable set of map images or geospatial data. Where Strava experiences the benefits of crowd sourced data, problems can arise when data and the ability to map it is available to anyone in the public. When this occurs error and misleading information has the potential to spread like wildfire with alarming or misleading statistics solely created to stir a compulsory emotion within the population. 

What the geographer does is mediate the data flow in order to streamline the rush of information, while making a comprehensive educational platform to spread knowledge throughout the world to anyone with an internet connection. In turn the globalized world grows woven within itself as cultures from far away places engage in daily interaction through a virtual platform which retains the users attributes to be shared to the public. Exposure to a region that exceeds ones local existence can be empowering and enlightening. 

As seen in Bahrain Google Earth aerial photos were used as a centerpiece for uprisings in the Persian Gulf. Furthermore extensive documentation of the events was captured and shared rapidly throughout the world reaching audiences previously out of range. Opinions were made and public perception about a region in the world thrust into the global spotlight is influenced by only a small set of images that circulated around the web. 

In the information age, technology has forged paths of connectivity never before experienced. Networks are created for trade, knowledge and culture is broadcast onto the global stage. The global existence is then created as one identity. One set of universal or all encompassing awareness of all the other groups of people who share the same earth. With this realization the earth gains the opportunity to unify through rapid communication and work together to achieve goals of human welfare as well as social, and ecological justice. 

The reason this post found its way onto my site is because this website is a perfect example of the power each individual holds in creating a virtual representation of themselves and the local in which they reside. Through the processing power of my computer and the readily available data shared on the internet, I taught myself web design, in order to showcase my visual and audio production company known as SangsAndSuch which can be found on vimeo and soundcloud. On this site I wish to setup a storefront in the global market place created by the internet. My business model is to represent my lifestyle brand called Howru. is still in its infancy, but it will soon be a fully operational page setup to display all of the radical activities created in house by myself or friends. It is meant to share the lifestyle and good vibes associated with the geographic locations I visit. Photos will be geotagged and turned to attribute points on an interactive map I personally will create through QGIS. Furthermore I plan create data as a contributor for and which are in my opinion at the forefront of crowdsourced geospatial data collection and projection. 

Simply put this website demonstrates the power of the web, and hopefully will serve as a success story for a user created and managed global enterprise. 

The human impact on the natural world.   Source: Google Earth

The human impact on the natural world. 

Source: Google Earth