Critical GIS

The article on critical GIS strongly emphasizes the subjectivity and human fallibility in GIS. The authors call for a more communicative, open, and inclusive approach. Their concerns appear to lie in the construction of truly participatory GIS that is open to all for exploration and examination at all steps.

I agree with ClimateNYC in that this reading seems to have circled back to our original debate of GI science vs. GI system. Through all of our class lectures, a new (to me) perspective is viewing the problem as an issue of public perception. The authors emphasize a strong divide between experts and novices to GIS, and I agree based on the learning curve of writing custom scripts/functions and variable recognition of the data’s limitations. Aitken and Michel’s call for a more “communicative rationality” seems to question the necessity of such a debate and pushes for a merging of the two. A quick note: at the beginning of the course, I stood on the GI science side of the fence.

The general trend of development in GIS functionality has been to make processes more accessible and user-intuitive. This has been shown in the cutting-edge human-computer interface examples shown by Peck. Simultaneous and interactive multi-user visualizations work towards this goal at the software level. These design challenges necessitate frequent debate and exchanges with users to optimize the systems for as wide an audience as possible.

The life-path of computers is a helpful comparison. They originally started out as expensive, feared research-oriented machines found only in the cloisters of MIT and government agencies. Curious techies got involved with programming and hardware development and became the first “hackers”. The development of games and minicomputers were truly pivotal moments in popularizing computers.The quick adoption of geospatial tools such as Google Maps and the GeoWeb is the popularization parallel for GIS. Application and theory will become increasingly intertwined with more intuitive tools available and may lead to a redefinition of the importance of place (in a digitalized world where the friction of distance has been lessened).  

At the end of the day, the increasing accessibility of data may make GIS an example of a science submerged in the social realm. Computer science still remains, and it is likely that GI science will as well. Concerns about underlying politicization and deceptive “objectivity” will fade as GIS methods become more and more ubiquitous. This reading has further shifted my views on GI science vs. GI systems towards a middle ground, and whether it is realistic to view the science-system as separate components.

– Madskiier_JWong

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