Archive for the ‘506’ Category

Problems of Scale in GIScience

Monday, November 30th, 2015

The topic of scale is a good example of GIS being synonymous with “doing science”. When I think about GIScience as opposed to GIS, I think about the problems that arise when trying to represent and communicate space using digital geographic information. Scale, as expressed in Spatial Scale Problems and Geostatistical Solutions: A Review by Atkinson and Tate, presents many problems for how to optimally relate and represent spatial features and properties. GIS is special because unlike traditional graphical maps, they have the capacity to integrate multi-scale data. Therefore, when discussing spatial data, one must address issues of scale and the implications theses new types of interfaces have for representing and analyzing spatial data.

Scale is very much a central topic of spatial cognition. I have seen many applications of scale for explaining how we conceptualize and categorize space. Atkinson and Tate assert in their paper that, “one can never observe “reality” independent of some sampling framework, so that what we observe is always a filtered version of reality” (Atkinson and Tate, 2000). This acknowledgement of the conceptual frameworks that contextualize scale is an essential part of cognitive processes that involve spatial properties as a core component.

In addition, scale is a fundamental component of spatial statistics and analysis. MUAP and variations of sampling schemes are met with issues pertaining to scale. In our final project for Geog 308, my group members and I have to address issues of scale in our analysis. In order to observe urban sprawl over time for the city of Maceio, Brazil, we have to confront problems of spatial resolution and how to stratify and randomly choose our ground truth sample points. The scales of these samples affect the heterogeneity of land cover classes and affect the results of our analysis.

In addition, I find that scale is relevant to the other topic being presented tomorrow on the sharing economy in GIScience. Scale is very important when discussing networks, accountability, and trust within the sharing economy. I hope to discuss this topic further during tomorrow’s discussion period.

-geobloggerRB

Site Vs Situation

Monday, November 30th, 2015

In Thebault-Spieker et al.’s (2015) article they analyze the site and situation attributes of each census tract to get a better idea of the qualitative factors influencing crowdworkers decisions. They found that perceived safety and distance from starting location/accessibility both where the representative site and situation attributes.

This got me thinking about the site and situation attributes we might find in other sharing economy development that are not necessarily crowd sourcing, take Airbnb for example.   Some site attributes I can think of for Airbnb, off the top of my head, are cost, safety, and quality (whole house/vs room in apt). Situation attributes may be connectivity to tourist attractions (via streets and public transit) or specific neighborhoods. It would be interesting to see what attribute was more important to people selecting houses to stay in. As a young female with little disposable income, I would characterize location second to cost (unless it seemed really worth it).

Generally I wonder what attributes are deemed most important by users across the various sharing-economy platforms. Thebault-Spieker et al. addresses some implications their findings may have on UberX drivers, mainly the idea of a service desert (comparable to a food desert but for sharing economy services) (2015). Extrapolating this to the slightly different platform of Airbnb, I wonder if there is a service desert in lower SES neighborhoods. I would predict that there are less so than in this TaskRabbit study simply on the assumption that lower income families also may wish to travel and Airbnb could aid in making this more affordable. And it seems there do exist a number of Airbnb’s in the ‘ghettos’ of Chicago. Lastly, I acknowledge that I am making a sweeping statement of the southwest region as most people do, however, I do share some of the views of the female respondents in this study as a Northern Chicagoan.

The stereotypical danger zones are bound more or less by the 294

The stereotypical danger zones are bound more or less by the 294

-BannerGrey

Thebault-Spieker: Whose Crowdsourced Market?

Monday, November 30th, 2015

The authors situate mobile crowdsourcing markets such as TaskRabbit within geography, arguing that the geographical perspective is fundamental to the functioning of these markets. I was surprised by how little distance seemed to affect willingness to do a task: the authors write that workers were 4.3% less likely to do a task an hour away than one in their immediate area. To me, an hour seems far, and I thought that this distance would have much more of an impact on willingness. I was also surprised by how much gender impacted the decision to complete a task: the mean of means for women’s willingness to do a task was 20% lower than the mean of means for men. The authors hint at it, but I am curious to know what the demographics are of the people asking for the job to be done.

Overall, I think that this article, and the crowdsourced market, is a good example of an application that needs geography. This is certainly a technology that is embedded in geography, and an analysis like this, I would argue, is really essential to understanding the demographics and the processes behind crowdsourcing applications like this one. Inevitably, some people will look at applications like this, and add them to lists such as “ways to make money in GIS” or “another new innovation that uses GIS!” (I’m looking at you, keynote speaker at GIS day.) However, we need to keep working on critical research, keep asking who these technologies empower, and keep examining the underlying inequalities and how they may be perpetuated by services like this.

 

-denasaur

Avoiding the South Side and the Suburbs: Thebault-Spieker et al., 2015

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Thebault-Spieker and colleagues (2015) discuss the geographic factors influencing mobile crowdsource market “workers” and how these factors may affect the willingness of a participant to accept a work task on the mobile crowdsourcing market application “TaskRabbit”.

I found the article to be an interesting read, however I found that the authors could have made their geographic argument stronger. They could have have gone more in depth with regards to how task duration in relation to distance traveled affected people’s willingness to travel to the task. As well, I thought the authors could have discussed the MAUP with regards to their argument that census tracts with low reported household income (derived from aggregated point data) are disadvantaged in this market.

The authors admit that the study is limited by the fact that it was only conducted in one county. I wonder what their findings would be if they looked at areas that are smaller, such as rural communities. Would they find that socioeconomic status is no longer the driving factor of prices within the crowdsourcing market? Would they find that perhaps individuals with lower socioeconomic status are more self-reliant? From a sociological and economic point of view, I find the study to be very interesting. From a GIScience perspective, I find it has many logical holes and could be more rigorous, but it has promise nonetheless.

 

-ClaireM

Scale is an Issue!

Monday, November 30th, 2015

 

As a student of the MSE and a frequenter of geography courses, my understanding of scale is far more developed than the average person’s (I hope). Marceau’s (1999) article was an interesting read because it forced me to consider, in depth, the problems beyond just noting MAUP as a point of contention in your final research project. I am very curious to see what the future holds in terms of solving the MAUP—particularly the sensitivity test if we can find a way to perform it with less effort.  Maybe this already exists, as it has been 15 years.

 

On another note, applying this reading to my own project—scale is a somewhat challenging idea to take into account when building an ontology. Marceau is very clear about the problems of the spatial aggregation of data and cross scale correlations. Scale is obviously a huge factor in farming—what one farmer produces and how they run the farm is directly dependent on the scale of the operation. I have had trouble trying to work in a varying scale for the simple notion of a farm, since I was not planning to include geometry. I have come to realize the best way to address scale in my ontology is to specify a type of farm at a specific scale and work from there (Intensive agriculture for example). In fact by trying to include multiply scales for a farm, I would be building an upper-level ontology (which is not my goal). Geospatial ontologies built a single scale, however, may be a contributing factor the MAUP because the relationships they display won’t exist on another scale, or if they do maybe they are altered? On the other hand, a good ontology should be ‘universal’ which to means it would be applicable at many scales. So is the answer many single scale ontologies or one multi-scalar one (per research topic)?

-BannerGrey

Marceau’s Article

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Marceau’s (1999) article highlights what scale is and how it affects traditional (authoritative) geospatial datasets. This article reminded me of our discussion in Lesley’s geocomplexity seminar because Lesley addressed the concerns about being too specific or too generalizing, and whether or not we can have both.

Marceau states research should explicitly state the variables, specifically “the role of scale in the detection of patterns and processes, the scale impact on modelling, the identification of scale thresholds, and the derivation of scaling laws” (12). Although I agree with this, certain VGI datasets do not host these explicit details because VGI data lacks metadata that can provide information on scale. With this in mind, I wonder how a “solid unified theoretical framework” to understand scale issues will be approached now that new heterogeneous spatial datasets are produced and used, which can be seen within VGI datasets (ibid.).

Moreover, the connection between larger and smaller scales (e.g. global and local scales) can be connected via VGI. Johnson and Sieber (2013) state that “VGI can cross spatial scales” (74). For example: citizens (the local level) can communicate with governments (the provincial or national level) through producing VGI that the government can use (75). Nevertheless, VGI introduces a unsolidified non-unified framework, which is different from existing expert (GIS) ways of seeing spatial scales that Marceau discusses in his article. As such, Marceau’s article does highlight scale issues that are worth considering; however, since this article was written prior to the Web 2.0 boom, the article does not consider how spatial extent and grain affect other (less authoritative) forms of spatial data. For instance: the word “near” may be conceptualized differently amongst different individuals; experts may consider “near” differently than non-experts. Since individuals have different conceptualization of what “near” means, then collected VGI will have different/individualized standards/opinions that are inputted.

-MTM

 

Isaac’s Uber Article

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Isaac’s (2014) article on Uber can certainly relate to our class discussions. Like Goodchild (2007) stated, spatially-aware technology like new smart phones have proliferated a series of location-based services, such as Uber. Moreover, Uber’s user-friendly applications allow amateurs to use Uber’s services, and also contribute to Uber’s services by classifying oneself as a contract worker. In a sense, Uber encourages ‘produsers.’ No longer does a taxi driver necessarily need to be trained to provide expert services, which is similar to how geospatial information does not necessarily need to be produced by experts. This highlights how the conceptualization of “expert” is being transformed through technological shifts. Now, whether or not this is a good or a bad situation is up for debate. Reflecting on our last week’s discussions, is it OK for large private corporations to change labour structures in a way that allows certain classes to benefit, while other classes perish, possibly from unemployment?

As GIScientists maybe it is important to consider whether geospatial information should be dictated by large Western corporations and their competitive advantages, or rather it should be dictated by a more distributed population. Like I discussed in my seminar, the divide exists; furthermore, Isaac questioned whether or not Uber and other TNCs are really democratizing the hierarchy that differentiates experts and non-experts. Therefore, as GIScientists, should our focus simply be on the technological improvements of software and hardware to enable certain sharing economy applications to be prodused by a wider audience, or should our focus be on societal improvements to allow a wider audience to contribute to big data? Maybe both? It is important to be aware that the former reinforces power structures because there is still a reliance on certain experts isolating technological complexities from citizens, while the latter may be too difficult to accomplish.

-MTM

Revolutionary VGI

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Elwood et al. (2013) investigate the potential research directions VGI can take in GIScience. They touch upon current problems with in VGI, including that of data quality control. As I began researching VGI for this week’s presentations, I quickly began to question aspects of its legitimacy. This stems mainly from my concern that the users who are contributing are preselected. Elwood et al. touch upon this, they refer to it as the ‘long tail’ effect where a few contributors generate the majority of information (2013). They mention that this is likely not the most accurate or reliable, which I imagine is true as a I, a single human being have far less knowledge on a large area (say Canada) than I do on a smaller region (say McGill)—an application of Tobler’s law as addressed in the article (2013). The authors suggest that this can be amended by the use of some sort of approval system but I fail to see how very inaccessible places will be properly mapped if engaging the community is challenging.

 

A second very interesting point from this read, that I had not considered was that of the social implication VGI has on areas where maps may be dominated by central agencies. Though many online VGI mapping sites keep the users anonymous, I don’t know if they are legally able to keep users information private in all countries (China?). I’m imagining a situation where territories borders are under dispute between to conflicting parties, if that law forces the company to reveal users information then this could potentially endanger users. Furthermore, if this is a known risk then it may discourage participation from large portions of a population.   On the flipside, by opening up the power of mapping to the public where it otherwise was restricted maybe VGI will be used as a revolutionary tool! Perhaps comparable social media in the Arab Spring.

 

-BannerGrey

VGI – Citizens as Sensors Article

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

In GEOG 407, we discussed the important role VGI plays in neogeography. Goodchild’s article, Citizen as Sensors: the world of volunteered geography, does a good job of exemplifying how the nature of geographic data is changing with the emergence of the Web 2.0 and crowdsourced platforms (2007). For my work on open data standards, I observed how VGI is transforming how civil society interacts with their local government. For example, I looked at an API that allows citizens to file a request with their local government to fix public sector issues such as potholes, fallen trees, and vandalism in their local neighborhoods. VGI allows the Open311 API to establish a two-way communication (acts on both the server and client sides) between government and civil society. In addition, this data is time sensitive and could introduce issues of bias and repetition that is a common problem when many people contribute VGI at the same time. As platforms develop to handle VGI, GIScience must focus on confronting common issues of sorting out duplicate information and applying statistics to live streaming data that lacks a population value.

In addition, Goodchild’s article reminds me of Dena’s discussion about the digital divide and the types of forums that exclude certain voices and epistemologies. As the article points out, only people who have access to the internet contribute VGI. Of course, these people are heavily concentrated in the developed part of the world. Therefore, we must be aware of the inequalities and biased perspectives that contextualize VGI. Finally, as technologies become more reliant on VGI, it is clear that GIScience must further understand what motivates people to contribute information. Much of GIScience will rely and apply data that has been volunteered and crowd sourced. It must also decide how to factor issues surrounding user expertise and accuracy of data being reported. For instance, citizen science must reconcile how to sort out information being reported that is perceived to be scientifically inaccurate. These questions will continue to be important topics of research within the field of GIScience.

-geobloggerRB

Social Implications of Drones – Sandbrook

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Attending the key note speaker on GIS day reminded me that most of the commercial and government sectors perceive GIS as a tool. When Marina asked the keynote speaker about the ethical implications of remote sensing, it appeared to me that the question deviated from the topics from the presented lecture. Issues of privacy, data security, and the social risks of conservation GIS were not discussed in the body of the GIS/remote sensing presentation. GIS was mostly portrayed to the audience as a means for industry growth, environmental regulation, and increased government transparency. However, when we think of drones as a science rather than a tool, we begin to understand how the technology embodies concepts and systematic problems embedded in its fabrication and historical background.

It is incredible for me to think that fixed wing drones can operate thousands of miles away from its pilots. This notion of distance and perceived separation from the consequences of our actions has implications for how we behave ethically. This types of far reaching surveillance reminds me of the discussion of Foucault’s Panoptican referenced in Kwan’s (2002) article about feminist GIS. Drones make us aware that we can be observed even though we are unable to see the observer. As a result, applications of drones have the capacity to make regulation of those being watched a passive act. Therefore, the nature of drones are linked to methods applied by uneven power hierarchies and wide spread control. It is concerning that regulations applied to drone usage are mainly within the jurisdiction of the government and military. This means that legal systems that are not kept in check by civil society will mimic the interests of those in power. For instance, the article states that drones can be applied to catch illegal hunting of wildlife. But if the government decides to transform land that is tied to the livelihoods of indigenous communities into conservation areas, then drones become complicit in the marginalization of indigenous groups that defend their land. Again, these social implications of GIS are very relevant to our discussion last week about the capacity of maps and GIS to do evil.

-geobloggerRB

Military bound

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

I enjoyed Sandbrook’s (2015) description of some of the non-military applications of drones, as the author mentions the two can be hard to separate.  In fact I found this article to be a justification (critical justification?) of their use.  I say critical because of Sandbrook does not shy away from the negative uses of drones, he is very objective in his analysis which is greatly appreciated.  I did, however, at the end of this read find myslef asking the question: is it possible to separate drones from military use?  Of course all intentional uses of drones are not strictly for military purposes as Sandbrook shows, but it seemed in every situation he offered he also addressed some very real and very possible concerns that tie drones back to their military nature.  He even opens the article by addressing the negative connotations associated to the word ‘drone’ but embraces it for lack of a better alternative.

I suppose GIS went through (still is?) a similar period as many of the greatest advancements in GIS and remote sensing are the result of war driven technological progress. As I write this a conversation from last class stands out in my memory-that of maps kill and maps + guns= drones.  Reflecting on some of the points my classmates made, this article helped clarify one aspect of our discussion.  Though ultimately the decision to kill is that of the user (I am choosing not to discuss the idea of distance/engagement though I recognize its importance).  The way that Sandbrook showed how peoples most common response to drones are those related to fear and actions based from fear-even if their life is not at risk  (thinking of the poachers example) means that drones work through inciting fear.  They are fear-mongering devices and until this changes I believe they will be inseparable from military use.

 

-BannerGrey

Social Implications of Using Drones for Biodiversity Conservation: Sandbrook 2015

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

In Sandbrook’s “Social Implications of Using Drones for Biodiversity Conservation”, the ethical and social issues surrounding the use of drones for conservation research are discussed, and positioned within the bigger conversation of the benefits and costs of using such technologies for empirical research.

Drones are in their infancy with regards not only to conservation research, but to passive data collection techniques as an empirical research method. The article does a great job at giving an overview of the social benefits and the barriers that remain to be surmounted as well. I do believe that conservation techniques may be compromised through increased “hacking” knowledge, and that the article should have discussed this angle more, as it brings with it many interesting questions: How can we “protect” the data collected by the drones? And furthermore, how do we catch the culprits? Cybersecurity is an increasing field of research, and goes hand in hand with using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones).

I found that the article also brought attention to the important problem that is how these technologies will be perceived by local communities that see these technologies overhead. While the article doesn’t provide a solution, it appears that just mentioning the ethical implications of drone use is a big step in and of itself, as only a handful of conservation articles reviewed by the author bring up the issue in their research. That was shocking to me, as this article was published this year!

That being said, I really look forward to tomorrow’s discussion of this topic, especially following last week’s discussion of Critical GIS and ethics within GIScience as a whole.

-ClaireM

Can drones ever be a neutral technology?

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

The article by Chris Sandbrook on “The social implications of using drones for biodiversity conservation” is aptly named and raises questions about the development of drone technology beyond its usefulness for research (2015) . I do realize that I am already biased against drones and that was especially obvious when I read the phrase “we are entering the drone age” (638) and my immediate thoughts were of diminished privacy and increased tracking. Perception of technology is as important as the actual capabilities and results of using that technology.

One point to which Sandbrook drew my attention was that we can all too easily end up narrowing down the understanding of drones to a good or bad binary. An important example of how this elimination of more nuanced views can be detrimental is one of drones being used to catch poachers; the drones “promote simplistic narratives of ‘good’ conservationists and ‘evil’ poachers, thereby undermining understanding of this complex issue among the wider public” (641). Furthermore, what will be the reaction if drones are used for multiple projects of varying intent in the same area? Can we really expect people with minimal technological expertise to accept and embrace drones being used for “good” conservation work while simultaneous “bad” military or third party surveillance is happening? More importantly, should we?

I especially like the emphasis on framing drones in a more holistic sense; this seems to speak to GIScience development of drones versus short-term driven tool use. However, this article felt a bit brief and could have expanded on certain points. For example the almost self-contradicting potential recommendation to remove sensitive data related to identification and privacy before the information is passed on versus the warning that hackers could access said sensitive information would have been interesting to read about in more depth. Overall, Sandbrook provides a reasonable argument that drones are not the solution to conservation struggles but rather a potential to-be-investigated part of the solution.

-Vdev

Sandbrook 2015 – Filling the big gap in ethical discussions

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

The Sandbrook article discusses drone use in conservation and its possible negative social consequences. I really appreciated the general direction the article takes, as well as some of the more specific aspects of the article; for example, the author’s attentiveness to language. Sandbrook addresses the fact that there are many negative connotations with the word “drone” and also chooses to avoid use of the gendered word “unmanned.”

For the future of drone use for conservation, Sandbrook sees a need for self-regulation by the conservation industry until the legal status of drones is more solidified. I am a bit skeptical about this, and the ability and desire of the conservation industry to do this. Sandbrook mentions that other technologies have used self-regulation, but doesn’t mention whether it has been effective. This section left me wondering how regulations will be agreed on and enforced.

Sandbrook presents a conflict between using drones for conservation efforts, and the negative potential social effects of drones. This presents one of the biggest ethical questions in GIScience and critical GIS: can technologies that are rooted in violent applications be separated enough from those purposes to be used positively? There is no obvious answer, but I think writing articles like this one and acknowledging these conflicts is a step in the right direction. Merely spending a section of an article on social or ethical implications might seem insignificant, but I have come to realize the lengths that some people in GIScience go to avoid addressing ethical conflicts (for example, the keynote speaker at GIS day!). Now, I feel I am less apt to take for granted the people in the field who actually acknowledge issues of ethics. As the author points out, there are only three papers which address social implications of using drones for conservation, and one of them discusses it from the perspective of eco-tourists rather than local people. It might seem obvious to us to address social implications because we’ve been doing it in class all semester, but clearly the literature is lacking in this aspect.

-denasaur

Citizens as Sensors: Goodchild, 2007

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

In his 2007 article, Goodchild reviews the history and important technologies that led to volunteered geographic information (VGI) as we know it today. While I myself was quite familiar with the advantages  of VGI (and some of the main data quality concerns), I was unfamiliar with the effect that Google has had on how users of this (mainly) VGI platform. The discussion with regards to Santa Barbara and the errors in georeferencing were honestly quite shocking, as I had a hard time believing that Google would allow for such a error to happen. What other errors are they not telling us about?

Moreover, I wonder how popular VGI platforms will change as more and more communities become connected – especially with due to recent efforts by Google and Mark Zuckerberg to bring Internet to ‘everyone’. Will this change how we understand underdeveloped countries? How will we integrate their language into current VGI platforms? Will we have to create a new one altogether?

-ClaireM

Feminist GIS – Kwan

Monday, November 16th, 2015

I have been looking forward to discussing the topic of Critical GIS in this course. I was particularly excited to read Kwan’s article that discussed Feminist Visualization in GIS because I have studied feminist theory for other courses and find the subject very relevant to my own personal experiences. Because feminist theory is so varying and complex, some strains of feminist theory are not necessarily compatible with the goals, strategies, and affiliations of  other frameworks of feminist theory. As a result, I was very curious to see how the article would aim to reconcile GIS with feminist thought in general. It seems that the paper focused on a multi-culturalist/difference-based perspective of feminism. However, it would be interesting to see how other frameworks of feminism fit into Kwan’s argument (radical feminism for example).

In my own research of spatial cognition, I have seen countless studies that assert differences of spatial ability based on gender. These studies attribute difference of spatial ability among genders not to socialized context, but to biological and genetic determinants. During my lecture on spatial cognition, I was surprised that no one seemed very disturbed that cognitive GIScientists were categorizing and labeling abilities based on the concept of gender. I think that it is important that we critically examine these studies to acknowledge the accomplishments of feminist thinkers in disproving worth based on socially constructed ideologies. For instance, why emphasize gender at all in these scientific studies? Aren’t there other groups that might show an even greater discrepancy of spatial ability? In scientific research, we find a focus on gender because the society we live in emphasizes these categorizations. Scientific studies that incorporate gender differences emerge from a historical context that has used labels of gender to regulate and confine people’s behaviors and capacities. When we apply epistemologies of dominance to scientific studies, they dangerously become rebranded as truth or fact. Therefore, when we do the science of GIS, we must critically question whether this science perpetuates frameworks of thinking that reinforce systematic inequalities. Anything less is doing a disservice to any movement that refuses to accept oppressive frameworks as natural or inherent.

-geobloggerRB

Critical GIS (Sheppard)

Monday, November 16th, 2015

The paper “Critical GIS: GIS and Society: Towards a Research Agenda” by Eric Sheppard (1995) is in my eyes, remarkably forward-thinking. Sheppard’s personal insight into GIS 20 years ago is impressive when you take into account the fact that the field of GIS and technological advancement overall has changed very rapidly. He seems to get to the heart of a lot of issues. However, this relevance could also point to a less than desirable fact that even with 20 years of progress within the field there are some fundamental problems still waiting to be addressed.

I enjoyed the introduction to alternative evolutions of GIS since it was a topic that has never crossed my mind before. The most striking examples that emphasized Sheppard’s point that alternate advancements in technology and GIS have been bypassed were the references to analog computers (I could barely conceptualize how that would work) and to an “object-oriented GIS which was technically superior to a layer-based approach” (9). For younger generations who have not existed for enough years to fully experience societal evolution, it is easy to forget that the world wasn’t always like our world today, that it is actually something we created. Sheppard makes a strong point that be it technology, GIS, or the privileging of Boolean logic, doesn’t have to be the status quo. Surprisingly enough, this article more than others we have visited earlier in the semester has cemented my view of GIScience as a science. Furthermore, questioning the very evolution of GIS as a system and into a science is a valuable exercise in critical thought.

-Vdev

Feminist Visualization: Kwan, 2002

Monday, November 16th, 2015

In Kwan’s Feminist Visualization piece, the benefits and limitations of current GIScience (referred to as GIS by the author) research methods with regards to feminist areas of inquiry are explored from a critical GIScience perspective. Kwan details at great length the historical antecedents of feminist geography, defining it as “research [that] draws upon cultural, post-structural, postcolonial, and psychoanalytic theories, while turning away from objectivist epistemologies” (646).

For someone who does not pretend to fully grasp the importance of gender studies within GIScience, I found the article to be shocking at times, though thoughtful throughout.

I found the call for increased quantitative data collection at finer scales (ie, at the household and/or the individual level) to be interesting and reminiscent of articles that focused on (mainly) quantitative studies on geo-complexity. I ask myself: Is it possible to effectively understand individuals without gathering data at the individual level? Or rather, is it possible to understand a complex system of entities without first understanding the interactions at the finest scale? Or can we argue that society (or Kwan’s “daily lives of women”) is greater than the sum of its part (in that it is a complex system), and therefore rendering such high resolution data unnecessary?

As complexity science would have it, it depends on the question we ask of the system. In the case of critical GIS and Kwan’s article, it would seem that we do in fact require qualitative data at the individual level, as the goal is to conduct first and foremost non-reductionist and anti-oppressive research.

It is clear that human geography and GIScience are two fields that still have yet to find solid common ground on methods of research, though hope is in sight as more students seek to “straddle the fence”, as Goodchild puts it, and bring the two together.

-ClaireM

Kwan, Mei-Po. 2002. Feminist Visualization: Re-envisioning GIS as a Method in Feminist Geographic Research. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 92, 4, 645–661.

GIS and Society: Towards a Research Agenda – Sheppard 1995

Monday, November 16th, 2015

The text “GIS and Society: Towards a Research Agenda” by Eric Sheppard (1995) explores many of the often forgotten (or purposefully omitted?) externalities of GIS in addition to an analysis of the effects of the assumptions behind its development.  Sheppard touches on nearly all the social  contentions my colleagues and I have been discussing this semester.  I enjoyed this read for the broad coverage of topics so rarely discussed as well as the tone that Sheppard takes-a critical yet optimist and very rational one.  I found that I agreed with the majority of what he had to say, particularly,  the discussion on paths taken by GIS and how these have been influenced not by the research questions but rather by the availability of data.  I have experienced this first hand in every final research project in the mandatory GIS minor courses.  First, you develop a research question then you look for data and adjust your research topic in accordance to what you were able to find.  Now from the university’s perspective I suppose this would be deemed okay as students are often trying to do a class project in an incredibly short time period and do not have the ability to find or collect the necessary data to answer their questions.  However, I would argue that this is where the future of GIS is and that by allowing this it perpetuates the problem.

The fact that data availability  is driven by a market rather then the altruistic quest for knowledge undoubtedly has profound impacts for GIS.  Revisiting the tool or science debate, I think that this alone is evidence enough to place GIS as a science and not a tool.  The fact that many researchers omit these considerations leads us to view GIS as a tool.  Moreover, If we – society – want to progress then GIS will need to be universally accepted as a science.  Not to forsake tool-like functions of its application but to , instead, encourage all researchers to think about the social implications of their research.

 

-BannerGrey

GIS and Society: Towards a Research Agenda (1995)

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Since Sheppard’s article was published in 1995, certain technological and societal conditions have encouraged GIS research to expand into GIScience, and thus current GI research has affected our modern “way of knowing” (9). For example: with easy internet access and norms, VGI developed and then affected society (e.g. citizens now check VGI-based traffic reports). Before delving into VGI’s involvement, I would like to reflect the social cognitive scientist Sperber’s theory on how societal norms develop onto GIS.

Dan Sperber argues there are certain private conceptions of reality and there are certain public conceptions of reality. These public representations are the ideals, beliefs, and epistemologies that are publicly held; however, they are generalized and do not properly represent intricate privately/individually held perceptions. These generalized public conceptualizations that are not consciously and frequently thought about (e.g. colonialism, capitalism), are what developed GIS originally and are also conceptions that GIS helps shape. Since Sheppard’s article, different generalized public conceptions have arisen, and these new publicly-held views have altered GIS. For example: inductive reasoning is now also considered a legitimate way of understanding truths, and because of this PPGIS and VGI were established. Although public conceptions of knowledge (including technology) have broaden, which allows more private (and marginalized) representations to be included, there are still underlying hierarchal epistemologies that GIScience still prioritizes, and thus will affect which research is more attractive. Since VGI focuses on “technological information” compared to PPGIS’s “cultural information,” VGI is more “attractive” in GIScience over PPGIS (Sieber and Haklay 2015, p. 11).

Moreover, Sheppard states that GIS will “develop far more sophisticated solutions” to “account [for] a greater detail and variety of information,” but “this capability can lead analysts” to focus on technicalities, thus losing “sight of the larger picture altogether” (14). I certainly agree with this statement because I have recognized this pattern while researching VGI. Originally, VGI issues focused on centralizing and standardizing data uncertainty (i.e. accuracy, credibility), which assumed universal standards to make VGI data valuable. This is similar to what we discussed in last week’s seminar, GIScience assumes there are universalities (i.e. “brute facts”) that can be compared, and, with this assumption, ontological patterns can be developed (Searle 1995). However, these publicly held assumptions do not account for all the privately-held variations. For instance, a VGI producer’s conception of data validity may not match the VGI user’s conception of data validity. Fortunately, some recent VGI researchers have recognized these hierarchical norms that assume universality within GI research, thus GIScientists, such as Fast and Rinner (2014), have argued that VGI should focus on how spatial data is collected within a system. In another case, Grira et al. (2009) argued that VGI producers should communicate properly with VGI users so that the provided valid spatial data can attempt to match the user’s perceptions of valid data.

-MTM

Fast, V. and Rinner, C. (2014). A Systems Perspective on Volunteered Geographic Information. International Journal of Geo-Information, 3, 1278-1292.

Grira, J., Bedard, Y., Roche, S. (2009). Spatial Data Uncertainty in the VGI World: Going from Consumer to Producer. Geomatica 64(1), 61-71.

Searle, J. (1995). The Building Blocks of Social Reality. In The Construction of Social Reality. The Free Press, New York.

Sieber, R and Haklay, M. (2015). The epistemology(s) of volunteered geographic information: a critique. Geography and Environment, 1-12.

Sperber, D. (1996). Interpreting and Explaining Cultural Representations. In Explaining Culture: A Materialistic Approach. Oxford, UK: Cambridge.