Publisher: Wiley Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 0 87893 478 2
Pages: xiv + 517 Format: Paperback

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1 - Systems, science and study; 2 - A gallery of applications; 3 - Representing geography; 4 - The nature of geographic data; 5 - Georeferencing; 6 - Uncertainty; 7 - GIS software; 8 - Geographic data modeling; 9 - GIS data collection; 10 - Creating and maintaining geographic databases; 11 - Distributed GIS; 12 - Cartography and map production; 13 - Geovisualisation; 14 - Query, measurement and transformation; 15 - Descriptive summary, design and inference; 16 - Spatial modeling with GIS; 17 - Managing GIS; 18 - GIS and management, the knowledge economy and information; 19 - Exploiting GIS assets and navigating constraints; 20 - GIS partnerships; 21 - Epilog.



GIS - Geographic Information Systems - is one of the key applications in recent years. Although in theory it is a simple idea - maps made up of layers connected to databases - in practice there are considerable issues to overcome. The aim of this book is to examine the world of GIS showing both applications and issues that need to be resolved.

The book is divided into five parts. The first part is an introduction to GIS systems. Chapter one outlines the basic ideas of GIS along with a brief history and some of the uses to which GIS can be put. Chapter two takes this last point further and investigates the almost limitless uses to which GIS can be put and the ways it is altering our lives. Having put the case for the widespread use of GIS, part two looks at the principles of the system. Chapter three looks at how and what we can put ont o a GIS. Given that scale affects information this is clearly a key issue. It was with paper maps but largely this was something taken out of the hands of the user. With GIS such issues have to be raised again. This is followed by a look at the type of data that the GIS needs to represent. In reality, geographical data may be infinitely variable but in a GIS system there has to be some decisions about what to collect and how to represent it. GIS and its close cousin, GPS (global positioning systems) are still just computer programs. One key issue they need is to be told exactly where they are - georeferencing, in the terms of GIS. This is similar to the grid reference system but needs more consideration if you are using regional and global scale data. Finally, chapter six notes that boundaries are rarely sharp and the 'fuzziness' is a key concept which needs to be taken into account. Part three looks at techniques. Chapter 7 overviews the main software types and how they work. Chapter 8 describes how computer models may be constructed. Chapters 9 and 10 address one of the central parts of GIS. The maps are excellent and the degree of control and data analysis is impressive but first, someone needs to sit down and input the data. For those learning the system this is a key challenge. Some seemingly simple maps may require the inputting of thousands of pieces of data and even basic calculations can require significant computer time. Having made the product one needs to get it to the user. Chapter 11 tackles just that problem. Today, data can be downloaded from the 'net, from specialised agencies and uploaded to GPS, web services or even paper copies. Part four looks at analysis. Data might be interesting but what do they signify? Maps are the ideal medium but care needs to be taken with the analysis. Chapter 12 looks at map types and shows how different maps can give different results. There's an echo here with earlier parts - GIS systems are flexible but for this you need to think more (and more clearly) about what you actually require it to do. Geovisualisation (chapter 13) is the art and science of personal perception of spatial phenomena. Here, we're introduced to different ways of showing the same data which tends to highlight strengths ands weaknesses. Data must be interrogated and so chapter 14's look at query design is useful. Chapter 15 looks at the reports and further analyses one can do to further enhance the information gathering process. Finally, there's a chance to see the modeling work that can be done. Part five is focused on the applications of GIS to a range of settings. Firstly, GIS needs to be managed like any other key software project and there are some important questions that need to be asked. Chapters 18 and 19 examine the ways we can use GIS in our own work as well as by emergency authorities etc. One of the reasons for commercial GIS is that it can make data analysis easy and so those who have the skills can use this to generate profit - here we see some of the best examples. There's also an opportunity to examine the costs and benefits of the system. Chapter 20 makes the final point that GIS can be used by a wide range of people which makes it an ideal decision-making tool in a democracy. A final epilog rounds up the key points made in the text.

This is an excellent text for modest beginner to more experienced user. It highlights the key components of the system and offers a critical review of the main assumptions, data and users of GIS. The text is well-written with numerous colour images, summaries and review questions. The addition of at least 1 outside commentary on GIS in each chapter (along with a photo of the writer) gives a human touch to the subject and creates a very positive overall impression of the production values used here. Although it can be used by beginners, some basic knowledge would be useful. Given that the application of GIS has only just started it has a bright future. This text, aimed at helping people understand the basics, deserves to be one of the key introductory texts used to aid critical learning.


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