Geographical Information Systems, GIS, have developed over the last 40 years or so and now make a substantial contribution to the information society and knowledge economy. They began as a means, a 'tool', for solving problems and their development has been driven by advances in both computer technology and analytical geography. Is modern GIS, however, more than a technology? Industry observers record a transition from a product-oriented industry to one focused on delivering information services and a persuasive argument can be made that GIS should be seen as a field of study which impacts on and is affected by issues ranging from interoperable IT to social behaviour and organisational dynamics. In this topic we develop, through examination of case studies, a five dimensional framework for the study of GIS. In no particular order, the components are:

  • technology
  • data
  • method
  • organisational and societal context
  • a body of knowledge and ideas

Using this framework we can start to assess where GIS has come from... and postulate on where it might be heading!