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ImageThe Association of Geographic Information (AGI) held its annual conference in Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK this past week. With about 500 GI professionals from business, government and students participating, the conference was a departure from previous years’ where it was located in London. The move to Stratford-Upon-Avon was a welcome move. This conference can be deemed as nothing less than a resounding success. In fact, this is one of the best conferences I have attended this year – the  AGI 2007 Conference having a sense of buzz and vibe! 

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Building a GeoCommunity’ and seemed appropriate for several reasons including initiatives in the UK moving toward a national SDI, the growing need to integrate neogeography expression within the wider more traditional ‘geo’ community and the continuing need to build capacity and enlighten students and those unaware of the value of GI.

Steven Feldman was this year’s AGI Conference Chair and together with his team including AGI Director and Chief Executive officer, Chris Holcroft, offered up a picturesque venue, lively discussion and a wealth of interesting presentations. It is not often I get to see the 1970’s ‘Village People’ in disguise, but this conference had many attendee’s dressed up in full attire for an evening of fun and pleasure.

Opening Day keynote presentation by Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist at Google, brought forward the new term ‘paleoneogeography’ – Ed’s descriptor for the traditional GI community in comparison to the Web 2.0 oriented ‘neogeography’ folks. Parsons did describe the several millions of people who are now spatially aware through Google’s geospatial products in his presentation ‘The Opportunity for GI in a Time of Flux.’ The theme of opportunity was also expressed by Mike Hickey, CEO at Pitney Bowes MapInfo who re-interated that location was the key and deriving intelligence relative to place was the goal. Hickey pointed out that we have moved from generalists to islands of specialists. He described the differences between what he termed ‘Pre- and Post-Chasm’ with the Early Adopters technology focused, proponents of revolutionary change, visionary users, project oriented and willing to take risks as compared to the Early Majority group, who were characterised as not technically focused, proponents of evolutionary change, pragmatic, process oriented and adverse to taking risks while looking for proven applications.

{sidebar id=6}The theme of change and difference seemed to permeate the AGI Conference. This should be no surpise given the changing nature of the GI profession, technological changes and policy initiatives which are regularly changing. But true ot the conference theme, a sense of wider GeoCommunity prevailed as participants and attendee’s shared information and described their unique corner of the industry. Robin McLaren, Director at Know Edge Ltd., described how different countries have approached their geospatial issues and spatial data infrastructures. Using Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand and UK as examples, he described several considerations that led these countries to develop their infrastructures for spatial information.

Trevor Steenson of Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland, delivered a presentation that captured the imagination and interest of the crowd. It is not often one can hear about a spatial data infrastructure created in about a year’s time. While Steenson admits it is not perfect, the OSNI has decided to act rather than talk, and then use the lessons to refine a more detailed approach.

Later in the day, Steven Feldman chaired the debate ‘GIS is a Bad Career Choice, Discuss’ which resulted in an interesting discussion on the pro’s and con’s of working within the GI industry. The pro side appeared to have gained the crowds approval, although there was considerably amusement as to why one might not choose to work in the GI field.

Some pictures of the event are available on our website www.vector1media.com on the home page. Additional reports are forthcoming. 

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