What is GIS? A correct definition

We, as professional, should know what exactly is GIS, the “thing” we are working on all day. But after having surfed on several websites and blogs where the word “GIS” is defined, I have to admit that I don’t agree with all the definitions I see. The main problem is that I don’t agree with the fact that, for example, GIS is automatically linked to “computers” in general.

In this article, I will present my personal definition of GIS.

Please discover the presentation I made here:

6 thoughts on “What is GIS? A correct definition

  1. Close, so very close and I really do like your explanation.
    My only criticism is that in the 1960s Roger Thomlinson coined the term GIS and it related to a computerised system, you see, we have done geospatial analysis for years on paper but it was the computer that made it a “system”.
    I am sure that this will spark another long winded debate….. lol

    1. Hi Nicholas!

      Thank you for your comment. That’s true that the definition of GIS changes in time as methodologies and technologies evolves and computerized systems are now the main and biggest part in (almost) every GIS. And of course, it is not me, with my 8 years of experience in GIS, who will contradict the definition of someone who spent his entire life in this field.

      I wanted however to point out that the raw definition of a GIS is much more larger than just reduced to a computerized system. Computers in general are great tools to make it easier for people (= a necessary part of a GIS!) to collect, manage, use, analyse and interpret data. All of these tasks can also be performed without any software.

      I do like debates and these will of course broaden my mind and sharpen my own definition of GIS.


  2. When i studied at Aberdeen University from 1999 to 2007 there was an increased reliance on computers in everyday life to collect data and to interperate it to gain an answer to a question. We were introduced to databases and I never really saw the benefits of such a GIS system.

    However I have been introduced to GIS systems in my employment with Dumfries and Galloway Council’s access team (mainly mapping software) and it decreased the time spent on identifying problems across the whole region and saved the taxpayers money and increased productivity.

    It is hard to describe what GIS actually means as it comes in many different forms for different companies and different uses. Not many people know what the “G” “I” “S” actually means like a scene from the IT crowd even head of services didn’t know that IT stands for Information Technology.

    1. That’s true that GISs are of a large spectrum and thus cannot be very precisely defined. They can be of totally different “shapes” according to the implementations in a company for solving specific problems. All the GISs are different but the core functions stays roughly the same.
      Thank you for your contribution David!

  3. Great post Daniel! I do agree completely.
    The most important aspect to underline is that GIS is not a kind of software, as it is usually understood. It is really a system, and as a system has to be built, populated, managed, interpreted, analyzed and finally shared in terms of information.

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