Flexibility by Design: How mobile GIS meets the needs of archaeological survey
Handheld computers have become capable of more than data storage and precision measurement; they have begun to contribute to scientific studies conducted in demanding field research settings. Recent versions of mobile GIS software allow researchers with limited programming skills to tailor the software to the priorities and theoretical needs of individual research projects. Depending on the research needs in a given situation, data recording can be expedient or thorough, and data acquisition forms can be designed to emphasize flexibility for varied or unpredictable field conditions. By giving researchers access to large digital datasets and spatial analysis tools while in the field, mobile GIS facilitates the data acquisition process and can contribute to the quality and the efficiency of fieldwork. In this study, the implementation of ESRI Arcpad 6 in a high-altitude archaeological survey project in Peru presented challenges to the mobile GIS system that are perhaps common to many mobile GIS-based scientific fieldwork projects. The paper discusses the benefits and the limitations of doing an archaeological survey using mobile GIS. It also considers some of the ways in which improvements in mobile GIS technology will facilitate the methods of resource managers and field scientists in the future.