GIS&T and Society

The connections and interactions between GIS&T and society range in scale from institutions and business enterprises down to the individual level. Some fundamental drivers behind those interconnections are political, economic, legal, and cultural. Rapidly developing GI technology and infrastructures also generate various forms of public GIS practice as part of citizen science, VGI and social media. These activities provoke questions and critiques around governance, democracy, diversity, and ethics.

Topics in this Knowledge Area are listed thematically below. Existing topics are linked directly to either their original (2006) or revised entries; forthcoming, future topics are italicized. 

Cognitive and Social Foundations GI as Property  
Common-sense Geographies Property Regimes  
Cultural Influences Mechanisms of Control of GI  
Political Influences Enforcing Control of GI  
Alternative Representations Geopiracy  
Law, Regulation, and Policy Critical Perspectives  
The Legal Regime Epistemological Critiques  
Liability Ethical Critiques  
Contract Law Feminist Critiques  
Location Privacy Social Critiques  
Legal Mechanisms for Sharing Geospatial Info Balancing Data Access, Security, and Privacy  
Governance and Agency    
Professional & Practical Ethics of GIS&T    
Codes of Ethics for Geospatial Professionals    
Citizen Science with GIS&T    
Spatial Decision Support    
Marginal Societies    
Balancing Security & Open Access to Geospatial Data    
Public Participation GIS    
Implications of Distributed GIS&T    
Aggregation of Spatial Entities    

 

GS-20 - Aggregation of spatial entities
  • Demonstrate the relationship between district size (resolution/support) and patterns in aggregate data
  • Demonstrate how changing the geometry of regions changes the data values (e.g., voting patterns before and after redistricting)
  • Discuss the potential pitfalls of using regions to aggregate geographic information (e.g., census data)
  • Explain the nature and causes of the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (MAUP)
  • Attempt to design aggregation regions that overcome MAUP
  • Discuss the conditions that require individual spatial entities to be aggregated (e.g., privacy, security, proprietary interests, data simplification)
  • Summarize the attributes of individuals within regions using spatial joins
GS-10 - Balancing data access, security, and privacy
  • Assess the effect of restricting data in the context of the availability of alternate sources of data
  • Exemplify areas where post-9/11 changes in policies have restricted or expanded data access
GS-21 - Balancing security and open access to geospatial information
  • Discuss the way that a legal regime balances the need for security of geospatial data with the desire for open access
GS-24 - Citizen Science with GIS&T

Figure 1. Participant in a BioBlitz records bird observation (Source: Jo Somerfield)

 

Citizen Science is defined as the participation of non-professional volunteers in scientific projects (Dickson et al, 2010) and has experienced rapid growth over the past decade. The projects that are emerging in this area range from contributory projects, co-created projects, collegiate projects, which are initiated and run by a group of people with shared interest, without any involvement of professional scientists.  

In many citizen science projects, GIS&T is enabling the collection, analysis, and visualisation of spatial data to affect decision-making. Some examples may include:

  • Recording the location of invasive species or participating in a BioBlitz to record local biodiversity (Figure 1).
  • Measuring air quality or noise over a large area and over time to monitor local conditions and address them
  • Using tools to educate on and increase access to local resources,  improving community resilience

Such projects have the opportunity to empower or disempower members of the public, depending upon access to and understanding of technology. Citizen Science projects using GIS&T may help communities influence decision makers and support the gathering of large-scale scientific evidence on a range of issues. This may also renew people’s interests in the sciences and foster continued and lifelong learning. 

 

GS-12 - Codes of ethics for geospatial professionals
  • Compare and contrast the ethical guidelines promoted by the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) and the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)
  • Propose a resolution to a conflict between an obligation in the GIS Code of Ethics and organizations’ proprietary interests
  • Explain how one or more obligations in the GIS Code of Ethics may conflict with organizations’ proprietary interests
  • Describe the sanctions imposed by ASPRS and GISCI on individuals whose professional actions violate the codes of ethics
GS-17 - Common-sense geographies
  • Identify common-sense views of geographic phenomena that sharply contrast with established theories and technologies of geographic information
  • Differentiate applications that can make use of common-sense principles of geography from those that should not
  • Collaborate with non-GIS experts who use GIS to design applications that match commonsense understanding to an appropriate degree
  • Effectively communicate the design, procedures, and results of GIS projects to non-GIS audiences (clients, managers, general public)
  • Evaluate the impact of geospatial technologies (e.g., Google Earth) that allow non-geospatial professionals to create, distribute, and map geographic information
GS-02 - Contract law
  • Differentiate “contracts for service” from “contracts of service”
  • Discuss potential legal problems associated with licensing geospatial information
  • Identify the liability implications associated with contracts
GS-18 - Cultural influences
  • Collaborate effectively with colleagues of differing social backgrounds in developing balanced GIS applications
  • Describe the ways in which the elements of culture (e.g., language, religion, education, traditions) may influence the understanding and use of geographic information
  • Recognize the impact of one’s social background on one’s own geographic worldview and perceptions and how it influences one’s use of GIS
GS-09 - Enforcing control
  • Explain the concept of “fair use” with regard to geospatial information
  • Describe defenses against various claims of copyright infringement
  • Discuss ways in which copyright infringements may be remedied
  • Identify types of copyright infringement
GS-13 - Epistemological critiques

As GIS became a firmly established presence in geography and catalysed the emergence of GIScience, it became the target of a series of critiques regarding modes of knowledge production that were perceived as problematic. The first wave of critiques charged GIS with resuscitating logical positivism and its erroneous treatment of social phenomena as indistinguishable from natural/physical phenomena. The second wave of critiques objected to GIS on the basis that it was a representational technology. In the third wave of critiques, rather than objecting to GIS simply because it represented, scholars engaged with the ways in which GIS represents natural and social phenomena, pointing to the masculinist and heteronormative modes of knowledge production that are bound up in some, but not all, uses and applications of geographic information technologies. In response to these critiques, GIScience scholars and theorists positioned GIS as a critically realist technology by virtue of its commitment to the contingency of representation and its non-universal claims to knowledge production in geography. Contemporary engagements of GIS epistemologies emphasize the epistemological flexibility of geospatial technologies.

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