The Sharing Economy-Uber (Isaac 2015)

There is also a notable difference in the relationship between today’s two topics and GIScience as a discipline. While issues of scale are more clearly within GIScience, the sharing economy is one of those topics–along with, say, drones–where what’s most pertinent to discuss is how GIScience technologies (GPS, in this case) are employed, and what their wide-ranging effects on society might be. In these cases, I think a valid question is, what can GIScientists contribute to a conversation in the social sciences and humanities to further our understanding of these new technologies?

There is evidence of a certain conceit around the “sharing economy.” As Isaac argues, uber wouldn’t exist the same way in a better job market, and there appears to be a continual effort to reduce the proportion of profits going to labour–epitomised by the plan to eliminate the drivers. When we ponder these aspects of a GIScience-potentiated technology like uber, are we still “doing” GIScience the same way as when we talk about issues of scale? I’d argue that even if we are not, in a strict sense, that we should broaden our definition of what doing science is. Coming to the end of the semester, I’m increasingly convinced that scientists ought to be better versed in methods of critiquing and analyzing the influence of technologies on society, and that this sort of thinking should be incorporated into various scientific disciplines.

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