TUGIS 2017

Yesterday, I attended TUGIS 2017, which was the 30th installment of Maryland’s annual statewide GIS conference. It was a great experience as there is a lot of innovative work going on in Maryland. The one-day format is specifically designed to be a high-value experience. Attendees trade the minimal impact on schedule for the fact that they will certainly miss some content they want to see. I think it’s a fair trade-off.

I also happened to give the keynote address at the conference. It was quite an honor to be asked to address so many geospatial practitioners who are working to tackle pressing issues in Maryland. Thanks to Ardys Russakis and the conference organizing committee for inviting me.

A few have asked me if it was recorded. To my knowledge, I don’t think so. Some have asked me to post slides. While I did have a slide deck, it was designed to run in a loop and thematically support my talk, but I did not ever speak directly to any slides. As a result, the slides would be useless on their own. (Thanks to Howard Butler and James Fee for lending images to the slide loop.) I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with the slide deck model and probably won’t ever do another talk in which I speak directly to a deck, even in “zen” mode.

I suppose I could post the full text of my talk, but I think I’ll mine it for concepts to support future posts.

In a nutshell, I spoke about some themes that I come back to often of GIS as is has been being less useful, relevant, or desirable to verticals outside its traditional markets, in spite of the fact that those verticals see value in spatial analtyics. I also talked about how the changing data environment is causing GIS to become less distinct as a technological entity. I have addressed those ideas more thoroughly here in the past, so I won’t cover that ground again.

I did, however, also address the role of geospatial practitioners in the evolving state of GIS, as I see it. I’ll leave off with these snippets, lifted from my talk.

“While GIS tools are becoming more diffuse and GIS is becoming less distinct as a technological entity, the geographic knowledge base becomes more important. We, as geospatial professionals, are not defined by the tools we use. Let me say that again: We, as geospatial professionals, are not defined by the tools we use. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise, including yourself. It’s actually quite the opposite. GIS tools are merely a concrete representation of our knowledge base. And while we can encapsulate our knowledge in tools and automate spatial analysis and embed it all in traditional information systems, we cannot yet automate our understanding of the appropriate use of our knowledge, and we cannot yet automate the innovative application of geography to new problem sets. That remains firmly the domain of us.

Just as we are not defined by our tools, neither are we limited by them. We are limited only by our imaginations, and our willingness to collaborate with each other, and our ability to pick the right tool for the job at hand, and our willingness to share our solutions widely.”