GCI: Shaped By and Shaping Society

Yang et al’s article about the history, frameworks, supporting technologies, functions, domains and users, and future directions of GCI (Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure) is a dense read which attempts to cover all the bases of GCI. The article made me think about some of the Critical GIS articles I have been reading for my literature review. For example, Sheppard’s 1995 article “GIS and Society: Toward a Research Agenda,” addresses the way that society influences technology as much as technology influences society. For example, the GIS we know has been shaped by a post-war society focused on maximizing efficiency (Sheppard 8). Yang focuses on the possible impacts of GCI in different domains and in society, but doesn’t directly discuss how GCI is shaped by society. However, this does come through in the article: for example, Yang writes about how climate change poses a problem for humanity and will require high-quality geospatial data in vast quantities in order to capture and interpret knowledge. In the same way that GIScience was shaped by the needs of both wartime and post-war societies, perhaps GCI will be shaped by the needs of a society facing a global climate problem. Yang describes a need for a new sociology of knowledge, based on how science has been transformed and shifted to online media.

Yang lists several areas for future strategies in GCI; the one which stands out to me is social heterogeneity and complexity. This complements Yang’s discussion of a diverse community and end-users in fields ranging from education to environmental sciences. There is a possibility for the field of GCI to develop more organically, to be shaped and improved in response to the diverse needs of the end users in the community.



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