The future of critical GIS

It seems to a recurring theme in many GIScience papers that the topic in question lacks a distinct identity or field of study, and critical GIS is no exception. Who is interested in critical GIS? Well, most people should be… however as O’Sullivan points out in his paper on critical geography and GIS, not many people have a full understanding of this topic. GIS analysts lack geographic social theory, and human geographers may lack technical skills to analyze things.


In geography, we are all taught of the power of maps, although I doubt many of us (atleast in undergrad) fully grasp what this means. Maps lie. There is a reason there is a user in GIS, and that part of that reason involves having the flexible to display things as you wish. This is a double edged sword; while the flexibility is good for map making, it also allows for people to purposefully mislead and lie to the people the map is designed for. Not only is the user involved in making display decisions, but also in the development of the software, where a feminist geographer might argue has been an entirely one-sided endeavor.


After reading about critical geography, I am somewhat more confused and skeptical about everything than when I started. I’m not entirely sure this is a good thing, because too much skepticism leads to indecision. While it’s good to be aware of matters affecting the quality of what we take for granted, the role of a ‘critical geographer’ remains foggy to me. The review of this topic shows that we are aware of all of these issues, but without some sort of centralized critical geographer regime ruling over all software and data it seems like things will remain heading in the same direction.


Pointy McPolygon


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