Comments on Wright et al. (1997)

Let me start off by saying that I’m happy that Wright et al. (1997) acknowledge that GIS can have many different identities. GIS can be different things to different people – it can be used to answer research questions or fuel new ones. I was introduced to GIS as a tool, and initially saw it as a mechanism which allowed me to investigate spatial data and produce maps to show my findings. As I am now delving further into GIS, I am realizing that it is important to interrogate GIS as a means of producing knowledge and look into any errors or biases that GIS itself introduces. I don’t really know if this qualifies GIS as a “science”, but to me, this type of investigation goes beyond considering GIS as merely a tool.

I appreciated that Wright et al. (1997) discussed the various philosophical approaches underpinning science. It’s important to talk about the pedestal that we often put science on and the types of knowledge that it values. In the context of GIS, I think that the label of “science” is problematic in that it, while perhaps elevating the field, inevitably becomes exclusionary to those outside of academia or other similar positions of privilege. I’m not convinced by that author’s rationalization of why being able to call GIS a science is important. If we’re fighting to call GIS a science to give it academic legitimacy, isn’t this just giving in to the skewed status quo? Furthermore, I’m not clear on where this meta discussion of what GIS “is” actually gets us. Nothing is stopping anyone from talking about or using GIS in different ways. Why do we need to put so much effort into rigorously defining its many identities? Aren’t there more pressing problems which need solving?

World peace, Vancouver’s astronomical housing prices, Donald Trump…???

  • janejacobs

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