After six years and four editions, Getting Started with Geographic Information Systems remains a basic-level textbook for the beginning student in the expanding field of geographic information science. Books in GIS have tended to be rather advanced, for the specialist rather than the beginner. GIS is not just for the specialist, but for everyone. Geographic information science is the discipline that uses geographic information systems as tools to understand the world, by describing and explaining humankind's relationship to that world. The usual order of intellectual discovery has been reversed by GIS. In the past, geography students in their advanced studies met the tools of spatial description and analysis for the first time. Today, students from many disciplines and professionals find their way into the newly evolving academic discipline of geographic information science through their hands-on use of geographic information systems and through the medium of real-world problems. Geographic information systems are an important new entry point into fields where location in geographic space makes a difference, what might be called the mapping sciences.
Nevertheless, it is reassuring to find that as geographic information technologies have evolved, necessitating revision after revision of this book, the same old principles have reemerged to assert their significance as the roots of the new discipline. Much of this book is simply an old story retold, one that most geographers will find very familiar. Bernhard Varenius's 1650 Geographica Generalis, for example, contained much of the basic cartography in this book. Yet technology has brought change, and the evolution of the GIS field has now reached maturity, and the benefits to all are self-evident.
This book evolved from a tried and trusted approach to basic education. This approach is to first revisit the basics, such that all students will have the same foundation in underlying principlesboth students who have covered them and those who skipped them during their grade school education. Next, the scope of the field is covered, and the critical underlying issues are highlighted in the context of the learned principles. Finally, the approach works toward the development of critical thinking, using the knowledge base and the basic concepts to develop educated thinking in context.
Getting Started with Geographic Information Systems uses these three stages of learning. In the early chapters, the basics of cartography, geodesy, and geography are covered. The following chapters cover the breadth and a little of the depth of GIS. In the course of this coverage, critical thinking is developed by visiting themes and challenges around issues and applications. Accuracy, data models, how data structure dictates capability, the demands of analysisall are considered in context.
Chapter 1, What Is a GIS?, is an introduction to the concepts of GIS by the examination of alternative definitions, a glimpse at the historical context and heritage of the field, and a guide to the many information sources available, including those on the Internet and the World Wide Web. Chapter 2, GIS's Roots in Cartography, is a basic concepts chapter, introducing the cartographic necessities of map projections, coordinate systems, and geodesy. Chapter 3, Maps as Numbers, begins a consideration of map data representation, necessary for storage of the data within a GIS. The survey approach to data structures and formats is supplemented by consideration of how data structures both facilitate and limit GIS data use.
Chapter 4, Getting the Map into the Computer, also covers the basics of computer cartography and database systems, and getting maps into the computer in digital form, the process of geocoding. The broader issue introduced is the relationship between map accuracy and resolution, and the cartographic process of generalization. When an existing map is the source of data for a GIS, we often make faithful reproduction in the digital world of cartographic errors in the real world. Chapter 5, What Is Where?, is information rarely covered in GIS books: the database management capabilities of GIS and how they have evolved. Most database systems have a great deal in common. The attribute database is used as a vehicle to understand the concept of retrieval from a spatial database, a very different process indeed, and one right at the core of GIS power. Chapter 6, Why Is It There?, looks at data analysis, building from attribute data description and analysis toward spatial analysis. Here less depth is used because many curricula in geography already teach advanced methods of spatial analysis. A strength is the use of a real-world GPS data set. As my grandfather often said, it makes no sense to teach carpentry with blunt toolsyou are just as likely to get cut. The same goes for GIS.
Chapter 7, Making Maps with GIS, is the last of the basic review chapters, in this case covering the map design component of cartography. So often, GIS is taught without a link to the substantial literature and body of experience on map design. With just a few of the basics, a GIS novice will be better able to understand when mistakes are being made. Chapter 8, How to Pick a GIS, is intended to allow the GIS novice to make an informed choice of systems, all too often the first step required in a GIS user's education. Although no coverage can be complete, the view here is that the educated shopper is the best consumer. Far more information is available to the sophisticated user; here the GIS novice gets the essentials. Chapter 9, GIS in Action, explores five original contributed case studies in GIS, one of them new to the fourth edition. The chapter highlights the full scope of GIS work, the inter- and multidisciplinary nature of the research in the field, and the many problems that are addressable (and created) by GIS. Chapter 10, The Future of GIS, speculates on future hardware, software, and issues, providing the GIS novice with a road map to the intellectual issues driving GIS research.
Each chapter includes four essential learning aids. First, each chapter's content is summarized in "bullet" form for easy use as classroom summaries and study guides. Next, each technical term is treated as a keyword, and definitions are given chapter by chapter. This assists in review, in learning concepts along with lectures, and in learning along with reading. A summary dictionary-style glossary is also provided at the end of the book. Finally, two sets of questions are included. The study questions are specific to the chapter and can serve as useful enrichment. Each chapter ends with exercises that can be completed using software on a PC. These exercises are generic enough that almost any GIS can be used to complete them. New to this edition, I include the labs developed for my class at UC Santa Barbara and the ArcView GIS software to complete them with.
The final feature of the book is a collection of interviews, included as sections called People in GIS. These sections are included because, first, it is hard to relate to a subject that does not have a human face, and, second, because the snippets of information each of these GIS users relate reinforce concepts highlighted elsewhere in the book. We are all, just because we are reading this book, people in GIS!
As with any book, there are many people to thank. Ray Henderson, my first editor at Prentice Hall and creator of the Prentice Hall Series in Geographic Information Science, originally talked me into writing this book. Dan Kaveney saw the project to completion, and has now stuck with me through four editions and the whole GIS series, as has his assistant Margaret Ziegler. Applications were provided by Ellen Cromley, Sean Abeam, Leal Mertes, Bryan Pijanowski, and Paula Messina. The interviewees, Nils Larsen, Mark Bosworth, Susan Benjamin, Assaf Anyamba, Michael Goodchild and Brenda Faber, gave generously of their time and energy. Assistance with some of the graphics came from David Lawson, Barbara Tempalski, Brett Gilman, Westerly Miller, Jeff Hemphill and many others. Susan Baumgart did a highly professional job of redrafting many of the original figures for the third edition.
The following people read and reviewed all or parts of the manuscript: Len Gaydos, Joshua Lerner, E. Lynn Usery, Robert Sechrist, William Lawrence, Thomas Hodler" Benjamin Richason III, Leland Dexter, Mark Jakubauskas, Steven Walsh, Robert Churchill, Michael Peterson, and others. Len Gaydos was kind enough to torture-test the book in the classroom at San Jose State University in the spring of 1996. Sarah Battersby worked on the laboratory exercises on the web site, and Jordan Hastings did the actual site creation. The cartoons at the beginnings of each chapter are the inspired work of Englishman Jon Paul Fahy. Thanks JP!
I received a great deal of feedback on previous editions, from the reviews in the GIS literature, to E-mail from instructors around the nation and the world, to student evaluations from my own class, Geography 176A, at UCSB. Despite the fact that I have acted upon almost all of the suggested improvements, I humbly ask again that you keep them coming! I am committed to ongoing update, correction and improvement of this booksomething that is especially important in a field as volatile and fast-paced as GIS.Encouraged by this, I have refined and expanded these materials to include lecture notes, exams and quizzes; a series of HTML-based labs using the ArcView software can be found on the CD in the back of this book. The outstanding efforts to create the CD and the Web site were by Ann Ricchiazzi and Jordan Hastings, with content provided by Violet Gray for the third edition and Sarah Battersby for the fourth.
There is much new material in the fourth edition. The graphics are much improved by color, and there is a new case study plus the laboratory and Web material. I hope this makes the basic GIS class, especially in geography programs around the country, of increased value to students. Geographers now find their discipline in demand intellectually, and they have the opportunity to conduct work of increased relevance. This is possible because of the power that GIS has placed into the hands of the spatial analyst. The challenge to use the power well is as vivid as ever.
I dedicate this fourth edition to my father, Raymond Harry Clarke, who died in England in September of 2000, shortly after the third edition appeared. I will always remember our last trip together, to the Greenwich Observatory. He took the photograph there that I have used in Chapter 2. And last, of course, and yet again, I thank Margot, Chantal, Elizabeth, Anne, and Caroline. Not only did they put up with a husband and father who travels way too much, they also modeled for some of the photographs in the book. Keith C. Clarke