Beyond the GIS layer cake

What is the role of GIS in supporting decision-making processes? It looks like I’m not the only one left with that question after the readings…

There is the GIS tool that continuously allows to add information (the layer cake), store and organize a tremendous amount of data, analyze the data, make maps and better inform decision makers. Is it the only role? Is it enough? Does having a lot of information allows decision-makers to make better decisions? I don’t think so. As M.C Er puts it : “decisions are based on personal experience and subjective judgment.” Taking decision is then a very individual process. As sidewalkballet argue in this blog, maybe the GIS way works for a certain cognitive style of people.

There has to be something more than relying on great good more and more information to make good decisions. Is GIS playing a role in decision-making processes because it’s more cost-effective? That is really hard to answer as M.C Er points out. If we don’t know if there is some economic benefits in using GIS why is it used? Well maybe because it’s a good way to legitimize the process and legitimize the decision. Decision-makers and managers can say :” Look we are so up to date; we are using GIS!”. It can become a way for the agencies to promote ‘good practices’.

Furthermore, I think that seeing the role of GIS in a technocratic way can lead to focus more on the processes of using information (gather information, organize the information, analyze information, communicate the results…) rather than on solving problems. That could be a very comforting thing when it’s complex to identify the problem that you’re dealing with (unstructured problems). However, I don’t think that it’s the way to optimize GIS and decision-making processes.

Even new technologies and Web 2.0 can serve the purpose of simply adding information produced by citizens about local knowledge. However, as it was already mentioned in this forum, the decision makers are not necessarily willing to take that information into consideration.

What if the role was to improve collaboration between stakeholders? Rinner et al. talk more precisely about supporting deliberation in the decision-making processes rather than the decision itself. Now that is GIScience! It is about interactions between the technology, users and producers in a specific context. The outcome is a debate on how different persons view their environment. In the example of the Argumap, the thread structure reveals the spatial thought processes of participants with the relations created between arguments. I might be a little optimistic, but the debate and discussions that are created trough the interaction have a potential to reshape existing structure between agencies and citizens.


Comments are closed.