(This image was located at Digital Egypt: http://www.digitaleg.com/Digital_Egypt/Mobile/GIS-Mobile-Application.html. )
In a special section in the 27 October-2 November 2012 issue of The Economist, titled Technology and Geography, various writers discussed how mobile GIS units and geographical applications are changing individuals everyday lives, society-at-large, politics, commerce and increasing globalization and connectivity. In one particular article in this section, A sense of place Geography matters as much as ever, despite the digital revolution., Patrick Lane discusses how instead of geography disappearing it is becoming more important as more applications are becoming geographical in nature.
Increasing telecommunications capacities (i.e., the Internet, social media, cell phones, GPS enhanced mobile devices etc.) and transportation innovations (just-in-time, intermodal container use for shipping via airplanes, trains, and ships, large capacity airplanes etc.),which are being better coordinated with advanced telecommunications and spatial technologies, are transforming the global society, commerce, economics and politics. (For more information how the Internet is creating cyber communities, see the following article “Culture in the Digital Metropolis: Theoretical and Methodological Crossroads” , in Urbana: Urban Affairs and Public Policy; also found in the book The Geography, Politics, and Architecture of Cities: Studies in the Creation and Complexification of Culture.) However, it is is not making a ‘flat world’ as proclaimed by Thomas Friedman, nor is it the ‘end of Geography.’
Geography is still an inherent property in all aspects of human existence. Every person and every tangible object is located in a specific physical location. Human beings still need to eat, meet people face-to face, go shopping, go to work places, and move from one location to another. Goods and people still need to be transported at all scales (globally, nationally, and local.) Mobile GIS application and devices are making relative distance smaller in terms of time and facilitating decision-making, but are not eliminating spatial relationships. Spatial relationships or geography remains regardless because people, business, industries and building still occupy a physical location. This will not change in the foreseeable future. Time travel and teleportation are not likely to go beyond the theoretical in the 21st Century.
Underlying spatial technologies is Geographical Information Science which is firmly grounded in the discipline of Geography which encompasses spatial cognition, representation of space (Cartography), meaning of space etc. Unfortunately, the discipline of Geography is often not referenced when there is discussion of spatial technologies.
What GIS related devises do is to facilitate is the transmission of geographical information, in some cases where it was impossible to transmit, not eliminating geography. Many taxis operate with navigational equipment sometimes linked with location of clients and destinations in a dynamic GIS. People are finding ride sharing opportunies in San Francisco and other places as referenced in the before mentioned article via mobile GIS related applications. Trucks can be monitored by GPS tracking and pick-up and delivery efficiently coordinated. There is an explosion of GIS related applications for mobile units. GIS related mobile devises are also being used in internal space such as airports. It is fairly predictable that GIS related mobile devises will become more prevalent in every part of global economies and society. The costs of this technology are decreasing to become more affordable for persons, businesses and governments. The consequences will be revolutionary in all aspects.
This special section in the The Economist talks about the wonder of GIS related mobile devises. However, the advantages are not evenly spread and demonstrate the growing divide between the ‘haves and half not’ at all scales. It is mainly a phenomenon that is happening in developed nations. Even within developed nations, the users of these devices are affluent and are not helping those that who are in the lower middle or in poverty. These mobile GIS devise are making fortunes for the manufactures and those designing the software, but are not having great economic impact in the U.S., Europe, Austrailia and other countries. The devices are made generally in China or other developed coutries where the laborers are being paid very low wages while the small amount of developers and investors in very limited location such as Silicone Valley, Austin, Banglore are making above average incomes and support relatively limited low paid services in the areas that the are located. Herein lies the delimna of a rapidly technologically developing world where income disparities are not being lessened, but increased by their growth. In the late industrial age and part of the post-industrial age, incomes rose and there was overall increased prosperity, particularly in the developed world. The technological or information age, requires only cheap labor which is generally found in developing coutries leaving the vast wealth to a limited amount of people. As Richard Florida refuting the notions of Thomas Friedman in an article concerning ‘the Creative Class stated the Internet and other technology (like mobile GIS) is not creating a ‘flat earth’ but a ‘spiked’ one where all are not on an even or flat playing field.