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-14 - Ethical critiques
  • Defend or refute the argument that GIS&T professionals are culpable for applications that result in civilian casualties in warfare
  • Discuss the ethical implications of the use of GIS&T as a surveillance technology
  • Defend or refute the argument that the “digital divide” that characterizes access to GIS&T perpetuates inequities among developed and developing nations, among socio-economic groups, and between individuals, community organizations, and public agencies and private firms
GS-15 - Feminist critiques
  • Defend or refute the contention that the masculinist culture of computer work in general, and GIS work in particular, perpetuates gender inequality in GIS&T education and training and occupational segregation in the GIS&T workforce
  • Discuss the potential role of agency (individual action) in resisting dominant practices and in using GIS&T in ways that are consistent with feminist epistemologies and politics
  • Explain the argument that GIS and remote sensing foster a “disembodied” way of knowing the world
GS-22 - Implications of distributed GIS&T
  • Describe the advantages and disadvantages to an organization in using GIS portal information from other organizations
  • Describe how inter-organization GIS portals may impact or influence issues related to social equity, privacy and data access
  • Discuss how distributed GIS&T may affect the nature of organizations and relationships among institutions
  • Suggest the possible societal and ethical implications of distributed GIS&T
GS-23 - Legal mechanisms for sharing geospatial information
  • Describe contracts, licenses, and other mechanisms for sharing geospatial data
  • Outline the terms of a licensing agreement with a local engineering consulting firm that a manager of a county government GIS office would employ if charged to recoup revenue through sale and licensure of county data
GS-03 - Liability
  • Describe the nature of tort law generally and nuisance law specifically
  • Describe strategies for managing liability risk, including disclaimers and data quality standards
  • Describe cases of liability claims associated with misuse of geospatial information, erroneous information, and loss of proprietary interests
  • Differentiate among contract liability, tort liability, and statutory liability
GS-04 - Location Privacy

How effective is this fence at keeping people, objects, or sensitive information inside or outside? Location Privacy is concerned with the claim of individuals to determine when, how, and to what extent information about themselves and their location is communicated to others. Privacy implications for spatial data are growing in importance with growing awareness of the value of geo-information and the advent of the Internet of Things, Cloud-Based GIS, and Location Based Services.  

In the rapidly changing landscape of GIS and public domain spatial data, issues of location privacy are more important now than ever before. Technological trailblazing tends to precede legal safeguards. The development of GIS tools and the work of the GIS&T research and user community have typically occurred at a much faster rate than the establishment of legislative frameworks governing the use of spatial data, including privacy concerns. Yet even in a collaborative environment that characterizes the GIS&T community, and despite progress made, the issue of location privacy is a particularly thorny one, occurring as it does at the intersection of geotechnology and society.

GS-08 - Mechanisms of control of geospatial information
  • Distinguish among the various intellectual property rights, including copyright, patent, trademark, business methods, and other rights
  • Explain how databases may be protected under U.S. copyright law
  • Describe advantages and disadvantages of “open” alternatives to copyright protection, such as the Creative Commons
  • Outline the intellectual property protection clause of a contract that a local government uses to license geospatial data to a community group
  • Explain how maps may be protected under U.S. copyright law
  • Differentiate geospatial information from other works protected under copyright law
GS-19 - Political influences
  • Recognize the constraints that political forces place on geospatial applications in public and private sectors
  • Evaluate the influences of political ideologies (e.g., Marxism, Capitalism, conservative/liberal) on the understanding of geographic information
  • Evaluate the influences of political actions, especially the allocation of territory, on human perceptions of space and place
GS-11 - Professional and Practical Ethics of GIS&T

Geospatial technologies are often and rightly described as “powerful.” With power comes the ability to cause harm – intentionally or unintentionally - as well as to do good. In the context of GIS&T, Practical Ethics is the set of knowledge, skills and abilities needed to make reasoned decisions in light of the risks posed by geospatial technologies and methods in a wide variety of use cases. Ethics have been considered from different viewpoints in the GIS&T field. A practitioner's perspective may be based on a combination of "ordinary morality," institutional ethics policies, and professional ethics codes. By contrast, an academic scholar's perspective may be grounded in social or critical theory. What these perspectives have in common is reliance on reason to respond with integrity to ethical challenges. This entry focuses on the special obligations of GIS professionals, and on a method that educators can use to help students develop moral reasoning skills that GIS professionals need. The important related issues of Critical GIS and Spatial Law and Policy are to be considered elsewhere.  

GS-07 - Property regimes
  • Explain the legal concept “property regime”
  • Compare and contrast the U.S. federal government’s policy regarding rights to geospatial data with similar policies in other countries
  • Compare and contrast the consequences of different national policies about rights to geospatia data in terms of the real costs of spatial data, their coverage, accuracy, uncertainty, reliability, validity, and maintenance
  • Describe organizations’ and governments’ incentives to treat geospatial information as property
  • Outline arguments for and against the notion of information as a public good
  • Argue for and against the treatment of geospatial information as a commodity

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