O’Sullivan (2006) and Critical GIS

O’Sullivan (2006) begins by highlighting the divide between social theory and GIS that critical GIS attempts to bridge. This article provides a brief overview of the field of critical GIS with respect to the topics such as feminist GIS, PPGIS, privacy, and ethics. In my opinion, this article did an excellent job of exemplifying the many ways that one can still “do” GIS while being socially aware and critical of the ways that this technology is used. This article, and I suppose the entire subdomain of critical GIS, makes it clear that GIS is not neutral and objective, but rather has many important implications for the individuals and communities that it impacts.

I was most fascinated in reading O’Sullivan’s overview of the “gendering of GIS” and how GIS has been adopted by feminist geographers to resist the “antagonistic dualisms” that are present in many GIScientific debates. In my personal experiences with GIS, I very easily find myself subscribing to a masculinist and positivistic view of geographic entities. I am often guilty of restricting my analysis to objective and knowable spatial characteristics which are devoid of more nuanced considerations for localized differentiation. I think that this top-down approach is how many students are introduced to GIS, which may be troubling for future developments in critical GIS. While this approach may fit well within existing scientific frameworks and allow for replicable research, it risks losing touch with reality as we experience it and may exclude certain other knowledge frameworks. In this sense, I believe that many of the issues raised by critical GIS can be applied to all of science and technology.

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