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. 

Law, Regulation, and Policy Governance and Agency
The Legal Regime Public Participation GIS
Location Privacy Professional & Practical Ethics of GIS&T
Mechanisms of Control of Geospatial Information Codes of Ethics for Geospatial Professionals
Legal Mechanisms for Sharing Geospatial Info Aggregation of Spatial Entities (with focus on Legislative Redistricting)
GIS&T, Equity, and Social Justice Best Practices Implications of Distributed GIS&T
  Citizen Science with GIS&T
Critical Perspectives GIS&T and Spatial Decision Support
Epistemological Critiques Mapping Spatial Justice for Marginal Societies
GIS and Critical Ethics GIS&T and Community Engagement
Feminist Critiques of GIS Geospatial Participatory Modeling
Balancing Security & Open Access to Geospatial Data  

 

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
GS-06 - Public participation GIS
  • Critique the assertion that public participation GIS promotes democracy
  • Explain how community organizations’ use of geospatial technologies can alter existing community power relations
  • Explain how geospatial technologies can assist community organizations at each rung of the ladder of public participation
  • Explain the challenge of representing within current GIS software local knowledge that is neither easily mapped nor verified
  • Discuss advantages and disadvantages of six models of GIS availability, including communitybased GIS, university-community partnerships, GIS facilities in universities and public libraries, “Map rooms,” Internet map servers, and neighborhood GIS centers.
  • Explain why some community organizations may encounter more difficulty than others in acquiring geospatial data from public and private organizations
GS-05 - Public participation in governing
  • Differentiate among universal/deliberative, pluralist/representative, and participatory models of citizen participation in governing
  • Defend or refute the argument that local knowledges are contested
  • Explain how community organizations represent the interests of citizens, politicians, and planners
  • Explain and respond to the assertion that “capturing local knowledge” can be exploitative
  • Describe an example of “local knowledge” that is unlikely to be represented in the geospatial data maintained routinely by government agencies
  • Explain how legislation such as the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 provides leverage to community organizations
  • Describe the range of spatial scales at which community organizations operate
  • Compare the advantages and disadvantages of group participation and individual participation
  • Describe the six “rungs” of increasing participation in governmental decision-making that constitute a “ladder” of public participation
GS-16 - Social critiques
  • Explain the argument that, throughout history, maps have been used to depict social relations
  • Explain the argument that GIS is “socially constructed”
  • Describe the use of GIS from a political ecology point of view (e.g., consider the use of GIS for resource identification, conservation, and allocation by an NGO in Sub-Saharan Africa)
  • Defend or refute the contention that critical studies have an identifiable influence on the development of the information society in general and GIScience in particular
  • Discuss the production, maintenance, and use of geospatial data by a government agency or private firm from the perspectives of a taxpayer, a community organization, and a member of a minority group
  • Explain how a tax assessor’s office adoption of GIS&T may affect power relations within a community
GS-25 - Spatial Decision Support

It has been estimated that 80% of all datasets include geographic references. Since these data often factor into preparing important decisions, we can assume that a significant proportion of all decisions have a geospatial aspect to them. Therefore, spatial decision support is an intrinsic component of societal decision-making. It is thus necessary for current and aspiring analysts, and for decision-makers and other stakeholders, to understand the fundamental concepts, techniques, and challenges of spatial decision support. This GIS&T topic explores the unique nature and basic concepts of spatial decision support, discusses the relationship between Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and briefly introduces Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) as a decision support technique. The impact of Web-based and mobile information technology, ever-increasing accessibility of geospatial data, and participatory approaches to decision-making are touched upon and additional resources for further reading provided.

GS-01 - The legal regime
  • Discuss ways in which the geospatial profession is regulated under the U.S. legal regime
  • Compare and contrast the relationship of the geospatial profession and the U.S. legal regime with similar relationships in other countries

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