Lost in Hyperspace…

Aitken and Michel’s article bothered me. Perhaps I read their intentions incorrectly, but as some other posters mentioned, they seem to be slightly overreacting. They spend the paper discussing how GIS can only further empower the hegemony of urban planners: deconstructing the failings of urban planning and those who plan, and making explicit the ways GIS will facilitate the “oppression” and blindsiding of the people whose communities are planned. And yet, GIS as a science, like any science (like planning!), has bias inherent, is limited to those who understand the language, can afford the systems… and yet is carried out nonetheless. And GIS as a tool, (as is implied here), like any tool, is neutral–it can be used for good or for evil, as they say. So I take issue with the constant denigration of the use of GIS as it is today. Wouldn’t any tool be just as dangerous? And haven’t urban planners (and the politicians behind them) been planning for years (without GIS as we know it today) with ill-conceived ideas of how a community should be, how people want to live–if Pruitt Igoe is any evidence, I would argue many have.

Additionally, however, Aitken and Michel wrap up with how “the GIS community may enable those affected by planning contexts to speak for themselves”. This seems perhaps a redemption for GIS. Allowing people who aren’t planners into the equation, expanding the context of GIS, may make it useful after all. But then they sum of with this.

“Clearly, there is a need to demystify the specialized speech and practice of GIS… it is beyond the scope of our discussion to elaborate on how training and access to GIS could be provided to all people affected by a planning context. Nor is it possible for us to delineate fully the myriad of ways the institutional structure would have to be changed in order to accommodate equal access to GIS”.

So they introduce all the problems, but refuse to really address any solutions, and that is where Aitken and Michel lose me in their fight (for?) (against?) GIS.



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