Your own GIS is simply your view into the larger system. It’s a two-way street. You consume information that you need from others, and in turn, you and others feed your information back into the larger ecosystem.
It is important to recognize the phenomenal growth of GIS in people’s lives and how its effect extends beyond its economic and fiscal impacts. You are—and should be—an active participant in a truly amazing field. Every day, millions of people are using GIS in government, industry, and academia. Even smaller organizations are hiring dedicated GIS professionals to improve the quality and accuracy of work being accomplished, and the benefits of doing so are immeasurable. GIS helps people make better decisions, reduce costs, work more efficiently, communicate better, and gain key insights.
Globally, GIS and the related geospatial economy is valued at more than $250 billion per year. The geospatial segment is one of the fastest growing in the tech field overall. And that’s saying something, because everyone knows how fast tech is growing. This segment is considered by the US Department of Labor to be one of the three technology areas that will create the greatest number of new jobs over the coming decade. It’s growing at 35 percent overall, and some of the sectors such as business GIS are growing at a 100 percent clip.
This worldwide community is busy every day implementing GIS: It is growing its expertise and extending its reach throughout organizations and communities all over the planet. The work these people do is impossible to pigeonhole because it is so broad, yet much of it tends to focus its attention on critical resource issues, environmental management and mitigation, climate change, key urban initiatives, and other daunting problems. The most committed users of GIS tend to be passionate and interested in the world, and dedicated to making a difference. To them, and maybe to you, it’s important to feel like the work you do means something.
For a lot of the reasons described in this book, GIS is a collegial profession with a strong networking aspect. Organizations including the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), American Association of Geographers (AAG), and others have long held well-attended conferences. From the beginning, Esri has encouraged face-to-face networking of its user community through regional user groups, industry user groups, its Developer Summit, and its annual Esri User Conference. With more than 17,000 in attendance, this event is the largest GIS gathering annually. To sit in the audience during the plenary session is to feel part of something truly larger than yourself.
Modern GIS is about participation, sharing, and collaboration. As a Web GIS user, you require helpful, ready-to-use information that can be put to work quickly and easily. The GIS user community fulfills that need—that’s the big idea in this chapter. GIS was actually about open data long before the term gained fashion because the people who were doing it were always looking for ways to deepen and broaden their own GIS data holdings. No one agency, team, or individual user could possibly hope to compile all the themes and geographic extents of data required, so people networked and shared to get what they needed.
Since the early days in GIS, people realized that to be successful, they would need data from other sources beyond their immediate workgroups. People quickly recognized the need for data sharing. Open GIS and data sharing gained traction quite rapidly across the GIS community, and continues to be a critical aspect of GIS implementation today. With cloud computing and the mobile/app revolution, the GIS community is expanding to include almost everyone on the planet. The data in every GIS is being brought together virtually to create a comprehensive GIS of the world, and nearly everyone can take GIS with them everywhere they go on their tablets and smartphones. Geography and maps enable all kinds of conversations and working relationships both inside and outside your organization.
First and foremost, your GIS can be used by people throughout your organization. In Web GIS, maps are purpose-driven, and their intended audience may include executives, managers, decision-makers, operations staff, field crews, and constituents. ArcGIS Online enables you to extend your reach to these users.
GIS users collaborate across communities. These communities may be based on relationships fostered by living in the same geography (a city, region, state, or country) or by working in the same industry or subject matter (conservation, utilities, government, land management, agriculture, epidemiology, business, and more). In these communities, users share critical data layers as well as map designs, best practices, and GIS methods.
People everywhere are starting to engage with GIS. They have been using maps as consumers, and now they are interested in applying them at work and in their community relationships. Often this involves communicating with the public by telling stories using maps. More and more, members of the public are providing input and collecting their own data for GIS organizations and the public good. This sharing of data makes for better civic engagement at multiple levels.
GIS has a critical role to play in your organization. ArcGIS is a platform that enables you to create, organize, and share geographic information in the form of maps and apps with workers throughout your organization. These run virtually anywhere—on your local network or hosted in the ArcGIS Online cloud. The maps and apps that you share are accessible from desktops, web browsers, smartphones, and tablets.
Professional GIS provides the foundation for GIS use across your organization. It all starts with the work you do on your professional GIS desktops. You compile and manage geographic data, work with advanced maps, perform spatial analysis, and conduct GIS projects. Your resulting GIS content can be put to use by others in countless ways. Your work is shared as online maps and apps that bring GIS to life for users within your organization and beyond.
A key component in your organizational GIS is your information catalog or portal. This catalog contains all the items (maps, layers, analytical models, apps) that are created, used, and ultimately shared by your group’s users.
Every item is referenced in your organization’s information catalog—your portal. Each item contains a description (often referred to as metadata), and any item can be shared with selected users within as well as outside your organization.
ArcGIS provides intelligent online content management that enables you to create and share useful maps and apps with your users. You can engage ArcGIS to organize and distribute your geographic information and tools. With a portal, certain users will have access to apps that support their specific work tasks, such as apps configured for collecting data in the field. Some maps will be shared with the entire organization, such as the basemaps that provide the foundation for all the work performed across your organization. Some users will create their own maps by mashing up their data layers with those of others. And some items, such as story maps about your organization’s work, might be shared with everyone including the public.
GIS is about the people in your organization and the purpose-driven maps and apps they apply to do their work. Every user is given an ArcGIS account (i.e., a login) and assigned a role in using ArcGIS. For example:
Communities across the globe today are facing many specific issues, and ArcGIS is a well-established and reliable tool used to help address these issues.
The ArcGIS Hub offers a new approach to tackling these problems that brings together executives and staff, nonprofit organizations, and citizens in a common framework. An initiative is defined—such as reducing crime—and the ArcGIS Hub steps you through a process of finding foundational data, deploying apps, engaging the community, collecting more data, performing analysis, and measuring actions and results. The ArcGIS Hub makes it easy to set up and run an initiative, and multiple initiatives can be active in your community at any given time. Three example initiatives are highlighted here: reducing vector-borne disease, reducing homelessness, and reducing opioid addiction.
Smarter communities don’t just react to pest emergencies; they work hard to prevent them. An ArcGIS-based, initiative-driven approach provides your community with the intelligence you need to understand and mitigate vectors in your community. Field crews and decision-makers are empowered to improve prevention, mitigation, response time, and public engagement.
As homelessness increases because of economic and social factors, communities are working hard to eliminate the problem. Empowered with GIS, government staff, nonprofit workers, and volunteers scour the streets to survey the people living without shelter. This information can then be aggregated to identify where homeless individuals and encampments are located. Once completed, spatial analysis tools can be employed to help target and deliver services to impacted populations.
Communities are being pulled apart by opioid abuse and overdoses, and governments and citizens need to respond quickly as the problem continues to grow. The ability to see through the emotion and make data-driven decisions is critical. An initiative-driven approach allows you to get a visual on the areas that need help the most, engage with your organization’s other departments in new ways, and work with the public to drive awareness and help eliminate the abuse.
Countless other initiatives can be implemented, including Vision Zero (eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths), improving walkability, increasing affordable housing, reducing crime, increasing public trust and police transparency, reducing traffic, improving disaster preparation, ensuring accessibility for the disabled, protecting critical infrastructure, creating safe routes to school, and many more. Some of these are included “out-of-the-box” with the ArcGIS Hub, while others can easily be custom built to meet your specific needs. With the ArcGIS Hub, the number and types of initiatives you tackle is limited only by the needs and imagination of your community.
“Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.”—Herbert Simon,
political scientist (1916–2001)
Geodesign provides a planning methodology and approach to project design and decision-making, and it is best practiced by a community of collaborators. A technical design approach is also involved. Once objectives for a project are articulated, professionals survey and characterize a landscape. They identify its special resources and the opportunities to support a project as well as the constraints that limit what might be possible or practical. GIS is often used in this phase to perform suitability and capability analysis. These results are used to generate the landscape of opportunities and constraints. Subsequently, design alternatives are sketched onto the landscape, and further GIS analysis is used to evaluate, compare, and analyze the various design alternatives.
The practice of geodesign requires collaboration among project participants. The most important aspect is the feedback and ideas that are generated by the participants—including local citizens and stakeholders who may be affected. Most geodesign activities are about this kind of community engagement and consideration. GIS provides a useful tool for others to participate in the evaluation by providing the ability to consider the issues of other stakeholders.
Many problems in the world are not well defined, not easily analyzed, and not easily solved. What we do know is that the issues are important and require thoughtful consideration. They are beyond the scope and knowledge of any one person, discipline, or method. People must begin to understand the complexities, and then figure out ways to collaborate. Collaboration is a common thread, and social benefits are the central objective.
Geodesign, as an idea, has the potential to enable more effective collaboration between the geographically oriented sciences and the multiple design professions. It is clear that for serious societal and environmental issues, designing for change cannot be a solitary activity. Inevitably, it is a social endeavor.
—Adapted from A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design by Carl Steinitz
Across almost every industry and discipline, we are seeing an unprecedented focus on analytics. Never have I been so excited to see the wide range of ways that organizations are using spatial analysis. From crime analysis to disease surveillance to retail and public policy, it seems that the world is awakening to the power of thinking spatially. As data science becomes pervasive, the science of where is taking on a central role in the way that organizations think about their data and make informed decisions.
One area that I’m particularly passionate about is spatiotemporal analysis, where the world’s data is finally reaching its full potential as it is visualized, analyzed, and transformed into powerful insight by taking advantage of both the spatial and time characteristics intrinsic in most data.
We’re seeing large commercial organizations and small environmental firms analyze everything from customer sales to deforestation, and they are revealing information that has been hidden in their data, in many cases, for decades – enabling their organizations to understand trends and anticipate the future.
And probably the most exciting thing is that spatial analysis isn’t just being used by experienced GIS professionals (though certainly this community is at the forefront!). Spatial reasoning is finding its way into the hands of all sorts of analysts and knowledge workers who are posing new questions and getting excited about this new way of thinking about their data. The Science of Where is everywhere, and it may just change everything.
Always looking for compelling and useful ways to engage with their local communities, many organizations are discovering that geography and maps are the perfect way to facilitate civic engagement and citizen science.
This citizen science demonstration project shows how volunteers can use a storytelling app to contribute to a citizen science project to identify the locations and conditions of trees in their community
The Crowdsource Reporter app allows citizens to submit problems or observations within their community.
The Crowdsource Manager app allows users within an organization to review problems or observations submitted through the Reporter application.
The Crowdsource Polling app allows users within an organization to review problems or observations submitted through the Reporter application.
Citizens and constituents everywhere are beginning to embrace GIS and engage with local organizations. Here are a few examples of community engagement.
This crowdsource story map created by the municipality of Cumberland in Nova Scotia, Canada, encourages public engagement through the sharing of favorite spots that show off fall colors across Cumberland County.
We are all connected to nature, and through it, to each other. The International League of Conservation Photographers, a US-based, non-profit organization whose mission is to further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography, created a crowdsource story map through which photographers worldwide can share their pictures and stories of their personal connection to nature.
This crowdsource story map created by the City of Eugene, Oregon, lets visitors and residents explore the map to see great places downtown as well as submit something awesome they saw themselves.
You can share your open data for use by everyone, without restrictions in minutes with the ArcGIS Open Data application. Organizations worldwide are opening up and sharing selected datasets with the public, enabling others to leverage their deep investments in critical information.
Publish a crowdsourced story map in which many people can participate and contribute. Use these to encourage community participation. Engage your community and encourage participation using story maps like this one on Why Science Matters.
It’s no secret: we all need information from each other’s GIS. Our GIS work becomes stronger through this sharing. One of the most effective ways to share is by contributing your content to the Living Atlas and to the Community Maps for ArcGIS. Thousands of contributors have shared their best maps and GIS data with the world through the Living Atlas and amazing contributions to the Community Maps database.
GIS users everywhere are engaging with people in their local communities through various types of community engagements. Many of these apply GIS and encourage its use and adoption. It’s easy to contribute here.
The “digital twin” of this book exists online as a free digital publication at www.thearcgisbook.com. This website contains literally hundreds of ready-to-use, live examples of ArcGIS in action, and makes it easy to get anyone from 8 to 80 up and running with ArcGIS and eager to go further. This is also a great way to share the idea of GIS with your friends, family, and co-workers.
Two world-renowned GIS educators in K12, Kathryn Keranen and Lyn Malone, have written a companion guide for use with this book in classrooms—from K12 through college—that provide amazing resources and guidance for going further with GIS. This instructional guide will be available Fall 2017.
Every November, there is a global event called GIS Day where GIS groups worldwide open their offices and classrooms for GIS Day. GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society.
You’re an instructor at Laurel Junction, a community college in central Pennsylvania. The Geography Department is considering using ArcGIS Online to help teach students how to analyze data with maps. As a member of the department, you’ve been tasked with setting up a trial ArcGIS organization so you and other instructors can evaluate whether it would be a good resource for your courses.
A colleague familiar with administering ArcGIS Online advised you on the initial steps to set up a trial organization. First, you’ll activate the trial and complete some basic configuration tasks. You want an appealing site, so you’ll add a custom banner and feature some apps and maps on the home page. You’ll review some calculations to understand how credits are charged for the tools and storage that your department will use. You’ll also create accounts for four instructors who will help you test. Finally, you’ll learn where to download ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS® Maps for Office®, and other apps, and assign licenses to members. Once your organization is ready for use and you are familiar with basic administration tasks, you can continue on your own with a more thorough configuration of the site.Start lesson