Rundstrom 1995

For me the most striking aspect of this article relates to differing attitudes toward uncertainty. I have done extensive reading on uncertainty for my upcoming seminar and uncertainty is regarded in textbooks as something to be “aware of” and “open about”, as if it were an affliction. By contrast, Rundstrom points out that many indigenous cultures consider uncertainty (in particular ambiguity) to be a key enriching element of existence. Of course, this idea is not alien to western cultures, as we also find that the deepest of meanings are intangible. Furthermore, we are theoretically aware that in reality most strict boundaries and definitions are socially constructed. However, GIScience still seems to be fundamentally incapable of helping us to view uncertainty positively, because ultimately a GIS must work with either objects or pixels. Taking this into consideration, we should certainly heed Rundstrom’s warning that the effort to promote GIS in indigenous communities is likely to further suffocate indigenous worldviews. On the other hand, we must take care not to look at indigenous communities as passive entities with no agency. In many situations indigenous people may feel that in order for their communities to thrive while surrounded by non-indigenous civilization, they must forge a connection with us so that they can “manage” us. GIS could easily fit into this type of strategy. Ultimately, I think that as GIS practitioners we will have to scrutinize every application of GIS to indigenous culture to so as to discern whether it is truly a decision made by indigenous communities to use GIS or if it is imposed on them from outside with a colonial mindset.

– Yojo


One Response to “Rundstrom 1995”

  1. sieber says:

    “GIScience still seems to be fundamentally incapable of helping us to view uncertainty positively”: Why or why not? You are conflating uncertainty with data models/structures, which may be one of the problems.