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.
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.