Over the past few years, as GIS has grown, so too has the national standing of organizations like the Association of American Geographers and various statewide GIS and related geospatial professional associations. They serve as networking, training and social bases, providing enhanced skills and awareness of the latest and most important developments in GIS. I felt that it was a good time to take a look at a very successful conference in Rochester, NY, held on April 24 of this year, and share my observations with readers of Directions Magazine.
GIS-SIG is one of the largest regional geospatial professional groups in New York State, numbering over 300. As such, it draws excellent keynote speakers, and this year was no exception. Dr. Jen Ziemke, founder and director of the International Network of Crisis Mappers and a professor at John Carroll University, delivered a very poignant talk on crowdsourced data and activism, broaching such topics as Egypt and other international crises that create opportunities to provide crowdsourced phenomena and reporting. Dr. Ziemke has built the network with the goal of exploring how social media and “iReporting” has become critical to getting the word out in international crises, and how social movements can be mapped. The importance of live, real-time coverage of these movements is that it can help the broader world understand and react with intelligence toward them.
The conference also included excellent presentations that helped deliver relevant geospatial knowledge to a variety of GIS users in the Rochester area. Sessions were held with two or three speakers wrapped around a theme. Sessions included planning, remote sensing, applications and technology. Esri’s Mark Scott offered an outstanding presentation on “What’s New in Arc 10.1.” While not the only GIS game in town, Esri remains the industry standard and the choice of many governments to deliver geospatial intelligence to their consumers, both within government and the broader public. The most cost-effective means of delivering this know-how is the local GIS conference.
I consider this type of local group to be the building block of broader geospatial knowledge in the community. While it is very important for many in the geospatial industry to belong to large regional groups such as Northeast Arc Users (NEARC) or the New York State GIS Association, GIS practitioners who are closest to everyday problems that need geospatial solutions will benefit from local knowledge and local associations. If you get a chance to attend a local GIS association for professional development, or just for good old fashioned networking, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the connections you can make and how they can positively impact your professional development and theirs.