Abstract: 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.
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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.
Blaschke T, Donert K, Gossette F, Kienberger S, Marani M, Qureshi S, Tiede D. Virtual Globes: Serving Science and Society. Information. 2012; 3(3):372-390.
Blaschke, Thomas; Donert, Karl; Gossette, Frank; Kienberger, Stefan; Marani, Martin; Qureshi, Salman; Tiede, Dirk. 2012. "Virtual Globes: Serving Science and Society." Information 3, no. 3: 372-390.