Data and Information

Maps are shared, available, and distributed, unlike at any other time in history. The process of mapping has also been decentralized and democratized so that more people not only have access to maps, but also are enabled and empowered to create their maps. This democratization of maps and mapping is, in large part, attributable to a shift to digital map production and consumption. Unlike analog or hardcopy maps that are static or fixed once they are printed onto paper, digital maps are highly changeable, exchangeable, and dynamic in terms of scale, form, and content.

To understand digital maps, it is necessary to put them into the context of computing and information technology. First, this chapter provides an introduction to the building blocks of digital maps and geographic information systems (GIS), with particular emphasis placed upon how data and information are stored as files on a computer. Second, key issues and considerations as they relate to data acquisition and data standards are presented. The chapter concludes with a discussion of where data for use with a GIS can be found.

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe data and information and how it is organized into files for use in a geographic information system.
  • Compare primary and secondary data sources and determine the importance of metadata and data standards.
  • Identify and evaluate key considerations when searching for spatial and nonspatial data.

Chapter Sections


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Introduction to Geographic Information Systems by R. Adam Dastrup, MA, GISP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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