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Information 2012, 3(3), 372-390;

Virtual Globes: Serving Science and Society

Centre for Geoinformatics, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, Salzburg 5020, Austria
Department of Geography and Geology, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, Salzburg 5020, Austria
European Association of Geographers, 19 Blackwood Avenue, Liverpool L25 4RN, UK
Department of Geography, California State University, 1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90840, USA
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Nairobi, Postbox 30197, Nairobi 00100, Kenya
Department of Geography, Humboldt University, Berlin, Rudower Chaussee 16, Berlin 12489, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 June 2012 / Revised: 10 August 2012 / Accepted: 13 August 2012 / Published: 31 August 2012
(This article belongs to the Section Information and Communications Technology)
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Virtual Globes reached the mass market in 2005. They created multi-million dollar businesses in a very short time by providing novel ways to explore data geographically. We use the term “Virtual Globes” as the common denominator for technologies offering capabilities to annotate, edit and publish geographic information to a world-wide audience and to visualize information provided by the public and private sectors, as well as by citizens who volunteer new data. Unfortunately, but not surprising for a new trend or paradigm, overlapping terms such as “Virtual Globes”, “Digital Earth”, “Geospatial Web”, “Geoportal” or software specific terms are used heterogeneously. We analyze the terminologies and trends in scientific publications and ask whether these developments serve science and society. While usage can be answered quantitatively, the authors reason from the literature studied that these developments serve to educate the masses and may help to democratize geographic information by extending the producer base. We believe that we can contribute to a better distinction between software centered terms and the generic concept as such. The power of the visual, coupled with the potential of spatial analysis and modeling for public and private purposes raises new issues of reliability, standards, privacy and best practice. This is increasingly addressed in scientific literature but the required body of knowledge is still in its infancy. View Full-Text
Keywords: virtual globes; digital earth; GIS; geographic information; geographic information science; GIScience; google earth; neogeography virtual globes; digital earth; GIS; geographic information; geographic information science; GIScience; google earth; neogeography

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Blaschke, T.; Donert, K.; Gossette, F.; Kienberger, S.; Marani, M.; Qureshi, S.; Tiede, D. Virtual Globes: Serving Science and Society. Information 2012, 3, 372-390.

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