This e-text—GIS Commons—seeks to help students, agencies, and organizations analyze spatial data and communicate more effectively. At the heart of this project are two goals that will help alleviate two well-known problems:
The first goal is GIS education. Making good maps is challenging and time consuming, but a new set of free and inexpensive mapping tools has enabled almost anyone with a computer to make maps. These maps, however, are often improperly designed and do not communicate easily nor effectively. GIS Commons seeks to educate its readers on how to create and produce well-designed GIS maps, but it steps beyond mapping to teach the basics of spatial analysis.
The second goal is to reduce textbook costs. Textbooks that focus on GIS concepts are expensive, but this e-text, GIS Commons, is free. We hope this project benefits all kinds of students from typical college students who want to take geographic technology courses but have difficulty affording books to government agencies and non-profits organizations, also pressed for cash, which want to analyze spatial data and communicate using maps.
A free textbook movement is underway. Recently there have been several articles in newspapers and periodicals (New York Times; Wired; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; U.S. News and World Report; Time) that focus on the high cost of publisher textbooks and the emerging alternatives. GIS Commons is one alternative.
This e-text does not instruct you in what buttons you should press to perform a particular geographic analysis function. Many GIS workbooks and workshops teach the button pushing. Instead, this e-text is elemental; it simply introduces the subjects of GIS conceptually. Although many GIS textbooks purport to be an “introduction”, many texts provide detailed accounts of some obscure aspect of GIS that the authors know extremely well. This often confuses students as to what GIS is and what it does. Conversely, other GIS textbooks are too brief; some even leave out most analysis functions, which might leave students wondering what this technology does or they might think that GIS simply produces maps. We hope to keep GIS Commons as an introduction to GIS and walk the line between too much and too little.
We want our readers to become participants. Please use, comment, and contribute to this project.