GIS, or Geographic Information Science, is the study of information of an explicitly spatial nature. Though the acronym GIS is commonly expanded to Geographic Information Systems, I don't feel that this is wholly appropriate. A geographic information system is a tool, which might be used by researchers of many types (academic, governmental, or commercial) in many different fields. Geographic information science, on the other hand, describes a field of study.
I'm currently working on research for my thesis, which deals with the use of a spatial interaction model to generate links in a dynamic hypergraph, which might be used to browse through databases of spatially referenced data.
Confused? Don't worry. So am I.
Basically, the idea is to allow a user to browse a database in which the records have a spatial component. Suppose you have a database of stores, including the addresses of those stores. The address is a spatial locator, or a method of defining a store's location in space. If you've got a map with streets and addresses on it, you could even find an X,Y coordinate pair to describe the building, just by using it's textual address. My project deals with a way to treat a database of such information as a hypertext so the user can jump from one record to another by clicking an icon in an interface. Of course, the trick is to make sure the user has somewhere useful to jump to. And that's really the crux of my thesis.
In working on my thesis, I spend a lot of time playing with Arc/Info and ArcView 2, two popular geographic information system packages published by the Environmental Systems Research Institute. ESRI's GIS packages are amongst the most popular in the world.
A decent GIS link farm can be found at the Department of Surveying and Mapping, of the Norwegian Technical Institute. It hasn't been updated since December of '94, so I won't vouch for the viability of any links it contains.
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