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World in a Box Reviewed

The World in a Box Reviewed

Adena Schutzberg

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"The World in a Box" is a one-hour public television program spearheaded by GITA and funded by several GIS and technology companies. The press release from GITA calls it "an unbiased look at the many uses of GIS around the world." The screenshots do represent a variety of vendors - I identified map snippets from ArcView, MapInfo, MapGuide and GeoMedia. There was little, if any, vendor bias and even vendors who did not provide major funding for the project received screen time.

That said, it took about 15 minutes before the definition of GIS appeared - that's a little too long for a program intended for the general public. The opening story involved a detailed discussion of the conflict between foresters and environmentalists in the Pacific Northwest. Toward the end of the segment, GIS was introduced but I didn't feel the producers illustrated the connection between GIS and the grassroots group being profiled.

I think the choice of topics is appropriate; the program covered crime, planning, logistics and environmental issues in the US and abroad. However, the excitement of what GIS is and what it can do did not come through. Most of the talking heads, both users and industry leaders, came across less than lively. Credit Kass Green of Pacific Meridian for standing out with some of the most interesting comments.

"World in a Box" looks like a documentary. Shots of kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs, polar bears in Alaska, and FEMA responding to disasters make it look very familiar. The maps are shown quickly with no particular discussion of how they fit the story. Terms like "spatial logistics", used in the discussion of a port, were not defined, which I think might turn off the casual viewer.

Despite its dullness, the general message that "GIS is good" did come through, and that is certainly valuable.


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