Moving Beyond Waiting for GIS’ Sally Field Moment

Caitlin Dempsey


To say the least, I was mildly boggled when I noticed that was running a poll on “Is Geospatial Special?” which was a followup to a January post also with the same title. I thought the insecure handwringing was beaten out of GIS professionals back when Don Meltz posted about GIS is Dead – Long Live GIS“ which triggered a slew of rebuttal arguments and agreements from the geo blogosphere.

As a fellow GIS professional, I feel we need to move beyond the need to have a Sally Fields’ moment of “you like me, right now, you like me!” GIS professionals also need to move beyond that the stifling fear of “What?!? You can’t make a map without me, can you?” and adjust to the new georeality.  Yes, the coworker down the hall, who has never taken a cartography course, can geocode a spreadsheet and embed that Google Map into a web page.  And yes, there are still 651,000 references to “Graphic Information Systems” floating around out there.

Spatial is special, and yet it’s not. The “specialness” of GIS has always been dependent its intrinsic value to other processes; the “of course” that now enables applications to inherently have mapping and spatial capabilities (for example, when was the last time you saw a real estate app that didn’t incorporate the ability to view listings within a radius of a specific address?).

It’s up the the GIS professional to stay on top of the trends and changes and to adjust to what’s needed in terms of specific GIS skills.  The best GIS professionals are those that remain highly adaptable and don’t let past notions of what GIS should be keep them stagnant.  St. Francis of Assisi understood that when he said “Preach GIS always, use words only when necessary.”

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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.