“If we have acquired map-reading skills, we can judge many things by ourselves according to the map with vast information,” noted Dr. Minori Yuda. “Maps are powerful because there’s a lot of information in a small space,” she added. Similarly, in the slice of an hour, Texas A&M University-Kingsville unfolded something of strength: knowledge borrowed from a visiting speaker.
On Friday, April 15, the Blue Room in Fore Hall was home to the 2016 College of Arts and Science’s Dean’s Colloquium. Through a committee headed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami of the Political Science department, the colloquium has brought various Fulbright Scholars to campus for the past five years.
In opening the colloquium’s sixth year, Dr. Dolores Guerrero, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, recognized the featured speaker: Dr. Minori Yuda, Fulbright Scholar of the University of Texas at Arlington, a Japanese geographer on geography education and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It was this latter field of GIS that Yuda’s presentation locked onto.
By Yuda’s reckoning, GIS is an integral player in an information-soaked age—one close even to those unfamiliar with the acronym. As she later explained: “But once you know what GIS is, you can utilize many tools around you more. In this talk, I will explain what GIS is, how close this is to our daily lives and why this is important in social science education.”
Early in her talk, Yuda made the distinction between GPS and GIS—a difference of one letter than belies the second system’s power. Whereas Global Positioning Systems are common traveling fellows to cars and smartphones, pulling location data through the use of satellites, GIS marks out more than a route to McDonalds. Indeed, by Yuda’s explanation, GIS is not only able to build a map from a single set of data, but from the many layers of numerous kinds of data combined. This virtue, in her view, leaves GIS as a sharp tool in support for decision-making.
The remainder of Yuda’s talk centered on specific areas that GIS could be applied to; these included politics and business, as well as crisis management. While on this last topic, she stressed the importance of cooperation and shared knowledge within the use of GIS, referencing the 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti. In the wake of disaster, what had initially been a simple Google map underwent rapid change, making it more specific, and effective. It was the result of volunteers from across the world, each inputting bits of information to give back some small measure of order.
“As a citizen using GIS, it is important not only to be able to use existing data in the system, but also to contribute to making data for everyone,” Yuda reiterated after presenting this example. At the same time, it underlined a commitment to disseminating knowledge appreciated by all in attendance.
Follow Kaitlin Ruiz on Twitter: @kaitlinruiz95