Community mapping conundrum-Help!

Discussion created by deleted-user-sSu-c4USc33L on Feb 21, 2012
Latest reply on Mar 8, 2012 by ebowman-esristaff
I am currently working at a small private university and am facilitating a GIS pilot program in which faculty get training in GIS and develop it in some way for one of their courses. (The school offers no geography or GIS courses, so this is a whole new ballgame to most). I am working with a professor who is teaching a Nurtrition class, and wants to use GIS in a project where students map the communities they grew up in, specifically in reference to where healthy food stores, fitness centers, and parks are located. He wants to use Community Analyst for this since it is relatively easy for students to use and access.

The problem is that he is sensitive to the community "profiling" that might surface if students were to map things like income levels and other demographic variables that might highlight the discrepencies between communities of affluence and those that are more vulnerable. He is worried that students might be uncomfortable with these types of comparisons because of their connection to these neighborhoods. Thus, he's reluctant to encourage them to map these very powerful variables, but I would argue that this is where the power of community analyst lies, and that simply mapping locations of parks and health food stores employs little more than the Bing business search in Community Analyst, which students can access anywhere.

In other words, I'm doubting the value of using Community Analyst at all in the context of "spitting points out on a map." I was wondering if anyone has experienced something similar in regards to either student/faculty sensitivity about mapping their community demograhics, and/or questioning the usefulness of GIS when it is "surface-level" exploration. I'd also appreciate any ideas on how I might make this assignment more powerful without sacraficing the professor's wishes.