Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is Environmental Informatics, GIS?

When doing a literature review on Environmental Informatics I find nearly every article or journal publication emphasizing the application of GIS type technologies. While I don't discount the usage of these technologies in a collaborate environment, my concern is that the literature seems to miss a very large piece of the human-centered and communicative aspect of information systems for NRM.

As my primary interest is in developing collaborative web-based systems, it seems that there really does need to be a discussion on the ways in which content is managed, developed, maintained and consumed. How about when seemingly oppositional groups seek to collaborate? In what ways do current IS models fall short in protecting privacy but help maintain a collaborative space?

While the mapping technology is important it appears that the dialog that these products promote is what we want to be enabling. Yet, the field appears so focused on the mapping product.

What about how information is shared to other groups that might benefit from previous work?

In some ways, the integration of GIS is only one element of the equation. This parallels the concept of a pattern language. For instance, a single pattern in of itself provides value, yet the power of patterns is more fully realized in relation to one another and in this way we might find that addressing and evaluating the ways our larger technological systems support the theory, vision, language, education process and work practices necessary for successful community centered NRM.

I guess anytime an emerging field is predominately focused upon a single application or niche, makes me think that the scholars involved might be missing other opportunities for relevant and even critical questioning and investigation.

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