Yang et al and the Politics of Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure

This article gives a comprehensive summary of the functions geospatial cyberinfrastructure (GCI) provide to the public. Yang et al. detail the interlocking/interdependent nature of GCI components that allow the storage, processing, and sharing of vast amounts of data.

            I found that Yang et al. impressed the near-physicality of building and constructing GCI to keep up with our data demands, much like building new roads to handle increased traffic. From the article, it is clear that GCI is the fledgling structure that must support the burden of terabytes of data. The major difference in my view is that GCI is a global, common property unlike roads that only benefit domestic drivers.

            The upshot of the global necessity of GCIs is its inevitable politicization. While the authors stress the scientific and technological benefits of improved GCI, it understresses the political tensions that oppose standardized CIs. Two such examples are science domains eager to stake claim to their own turf and uniqueness (mentioned by the authors), and everyday citizens that have privacy concerns of being monitored and having their information integrated into a large database (see the outrage following every update of Facebook’s policies). These issues pose as significant a challenge as technological problems of cross-integration.

            I truly believe that the politics of turf-staking will fade with the advent of more data sharing made possible with improved GCI. Authoritative scientists just have too much to gain in being able to easily access other fields’ data and advance their own understandings. The general public is even more malleable than purist scientists in this regard and is unlikely to care about what their work is labelled as; their entry into ‘sciences’ is possible due to the flexibility and ease-of-access of open-source online software. The second challenge of privacy concerns is more complicated to me, particularly given the migration of data’s lifecycle onto the Internet (recall that Yang defines lifecycles as getting, validating, documenting, analyzing, and supporting decisions). In the past, data was often only offered online as raw acquired data or as finished products. As more controversial analyses become more visible online due to data-discovery GCIs, this will most likely touch off a firestorm of public debate over the pros and cons of a well-integrated and pervasive GCI.

- Madskiier_JWong

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