Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Stranger - part two

I am happy to report that my GIS installation issues have been resolved. Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm not having issues with using the program. I realise that not everyone knows what a GIS is, although the fact that the Cyprus authorities have just begun using it widely basically means that it has been in worldwide use for at least two decades.

GIS stands for Geographical Information System, and can be defined in many many ways. The way it has been pitched to me is as "a system for capturing, storing, checking, integrating, manipulating, analyzing and displaying data which are spatially referenced to the Earth." Basically, we're talking about a computer system and software that uses spatial (that is, geographical) information to carry out data management, analyses, and stuff. It's an extremely powerful tool that can be used in all sorts of ways by all sorts of people for all sorts of things that have to do with space: location of particular features, geographical patterns, where and how things change, where do certain conditions apply, and the consequences of all the above.

To do anything like that, of course, you need to know how to use the software. And I am such a newbie. I have gone through tutorials and am currently attending lectures to introduce myself to GIS, but I am still lost in this program. So much is possible! But so little of it is accessible to me. It feels like only experts can work with GIS. It's a Catch 22: you can't work with it unless you're an expert, but to become an expert you need to work with it. Fortunately, a GIS For Dummies book is soon to be published.

Actually, what I really need is a For Dummies guide to the particular software I'm using. Until this materialises, I am forced to keep trudging. At the moment I'm having to deal with numbers that don't add up, as well as a bird dataset that is full of zeros. A zero is non-data. A zero does not mean that there was nothing to record. A zero means that nothing was recorded. The zero is about the worst thing to have to deal with statistically. Curse the zero!

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