Critical GIS (Sheppard)

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.


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