EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Public and private institutions are committing resources and making important long-term decisions concerning the collection, management, and use of spatial data. Although these actions are influenced by current pressures, priorities, and opportunities, their ultimate success depends on how these spatial data activities will be relevant to future needs and demands.

The Mapping Science Committee, in cooperation with the Federal Geographic Data Committee, convened a workshop in April 1996 to examine societal and technological changes that might occur within the next 15 years. The purpose was to consider within the context of spatial data activities a series of long-term visions and to identify societal forces and changes that would make those visions more or less likely. The workshop provided a framework for thinking about the future of U.S. spatial data activities.

Thinking creatively about the future is difficult, particularly in a workshop style. Our imaginations are dominated by experiences. Although the powers of reasoning through analogy and pattern recognition are normally very effective, these characteristics may work against us when attempting to speculate about the future. Presented with a new technology, our natural inclination is to put it to the same tasks as the old and to evaluate it on that basis.

While the national spatial data infrastructure is by now a recognized concept, discussions at the workshop reminded us of the role of spatial data through the broader changes occurring as society moves toward the information age. In many areas the problems of spatial data are merely echoes of much broader concerns; in others, they are comparatively unique. Although both types were discussed at the workshop, the emphasis there and in this report has been on the latter.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 1
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Public and private institutions are committing resources and making important long-term decisions concerning the collection, management, and use of spatial data. Although these actions are influenced by current pressures, priorities, and opportunities, their ultimate success depends on how these spatial data activities will be relevant to future needs and demands. The Mapping Science Committee, in cooperation with the Federal Geographic Data Committee, convened a workshop in April 1996 to examine societal and technological changes that might occur within the next 15 years. The purpose was to consider within the context of spatial data activities a series of long-term visions and to identify societal forces and changes that would make those visions more or less likely. The workshop provided a framework for thinking about the future of U.S. spatial data activities. Thinking creatively about the future is difficult, particularly in a workshop style. Our imaginations are dominated by experiences. Although the powers of reasoning through analogy and pattern recognition are normally very effective, these characteristics may work against us when attempting to speculate about the future. Presented with a new technology, our natural inclination is to put it to the same tasks as the old and to evaluate it on that basis. While the national spatial data infrastructure is by now a recognized concept, discussions at the workshop reminded us of the role of spatial data through the broader changes occurring as society moves toward the information age. In many areas the problems of spatial data are merely echoes of much broader concerns; in others, they are comparatively unique. Although both types were discussed at the workshop, the emphasis there and in this report has been on the latter.

OCR for page 1
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop The workshop examined a wide variety of "forces" that are likely to shape the future of spatial data activities by the year 2010. Considering the large range of suggestions, the Mapping Science Committee grouped them into five generalized forces for change. These are discussed in Chapter 2 and are as follows: Synergy of information, technology, and access Expanding global interdependence Increasing emphasis on sustainability Emergence of community-based governance The individual The workshop participants individually described anticipated changes in the collection, dissemination, and use of spatial data by the year 2010. Over 139 isolated forecasts of future changes were suggested (see Appendix E). The anticipated changes include technical ones as well as those that are more societal in nature. After the workshop, the committee placed these changes into the following 18 categories that are discussed in Chapter 3. These categories are not unique. After each entry is an abbreviated sense of direction of the change (in italics) suggested by the Mapping Science Committee based on comments at the workshop. Basic computing (and telecommunications) technology: continued improvement Analysis, visualization, and cognitive technologies: development of search and integration tools; virtual reality Pervasiveness of technology: improved access to data and technology Data integration: spatial data becomes transparent to users Timely data and use: needs for currency will change data management Intelligent instrumentation: real-time locational information Data transactions: transactional updates become major data source Personal systems: spatial locators Quality assurance/quality control: greater role of metadata

OCR for page 1
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop Spatial literacy: increased geo-understanding Partnerships: data utilities may emerge Spatial data as a commodity: consumers will drive data markets Control of data: conflicting public policies will continue Data collection agents: more local collection of spatial data Data security and protection: possible restrictions on public access Decision-making process: spatial analysis continues to grow in importance Citizen involvement: spatial capabilities will expand involvement Privatization: suggestive trend of increasing privatization. The workshop also considered the likelihood of these changes in the context of the framework of future forces identified in Chapter 2: technology, economics and markets, the environment and sustainability, and the individual and local governance. Chapter 4 presents a forecast of the future based on this analysis, identifying ways to enable a particular forecast to emerge and the impediments that may prevent it. Chapter 5 presents an analysis of four scenarios of the future as presented by Wegener and Masser*: trend scenario, market scenario, big brother scenario, and beyond-GIS scenario. The workshop participants formed four working groups (one for each future scenario) to facilitate discussion. Each working group started with the premises laid out in "their" scenario and identified positive and negative implications of each, the stakeholders, and possible consequences to spatial data. This enabled the workshop participants to look beyond reality and examine what might happen as a result of societal shifts. Not surprisingly, the workshop participants reached no conclusive consensus on the future of spatial data and society. However, the participants did think that it is valuable to consider the *    Michael Wegener and Ian Masser, "Brave New GIS Worlds," in Ian Masser, Heather Campbell, and Max Craglia, eds., GIS Diffusion: The Adoption and Use of Geographical Information Systems in Local Government in Europe, Taylor & Francis, London, 1996.

OCR for page 1
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop range of forces at work and the possible changes those forces may produce. An organization that has a stake in the future of spatial data will find that its strategic planning must be guided by changes that most certainly will occur and also by changes that may occur only if specific pathways are chosen or influenced. In preparing this summary report, the Mapping Science Committee extrapolated from issues and ideas raised during the workshop to construct a series of specific questions that would be useful in strategic planning. It is the committee's intent that this report represents the beginning of a dialogue in which organizations consider their future spatial data activities in a changing societal context.