The Geographic Information Community

Caitlin Dempsey


At its broadest definition, the geographic information community (GIC) is a community of users who are connected by the common interest in visualizing and analyzing spatial (or geographic) information. Members of this community are commonly (but not limited to being) cartographers, geographic information system (GIS) professionals, surveyors, scientists, academics, and those whose work has a geographic component. Members of the geographical information community network with one another primarily to gain knowledge about where to find geographic data and to gain insight in different analytical and mapping tools; this type of information seeking behaviors makes this a focused information community (Fisher and Durrance, 2003). Within the larger GIC there are subgroups that are organized by geography such as a local user group, online in the form of knowledge sharing, and peer support sites such as GIS Stack Exchange, and smaller focused information communities formed around a common industry or advocacy area such as those working in academia, the federal government, archaeology, the promotion open source software, or open access to geographic data.

The geographic information community embraces all five characteristics that define an information community as outlined by Fisher and Durrance (2003). Members of this information community take advantage of technology to share and disseminate information, collaborate, and network (Dempsey, 2011). Online sites such as GIS Stack Exchange and GeoNet provide a platform where users are free to access information and to share knowledge. While sharing of information is one aspect of these online sites, peer support is another primary function as collaboration among members of the GIC is strongly encouraged. Networking platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus allow for a greater fluidity and responsive to micro needs within the GIC by allowing users to set up smaller and more focused groups that can more adeptly meet the various information needs of its members. Likewise, user groups, which can be organized online or as a physical group, also serve the geographic or subject specific needs of the GIC. Since there is such a large variety of avenues by which the GIC can network, collaborate, and disseminate relevant information, barriers imposed by geography, language, and specialty niche are disintegrated. Many members of the broader GIC belong to more than one information subgroup and this information community has a rich history of sharing information and knowledge. Networking is an important component of the GIC as membership within each of the subgroups provides opportunity for both virtual and physical connections within the geographical information community.


Dempsey, C. (2011, May 24). Networking in GIS: Peer-to-peer support in the GIS community. GIS Lounge.Retrieved from

Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi:

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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