Thoughts on “Theorizing with GIS: a tool for critical geographies?”

This piece is a good introduction to issues regarding GIS and its role on quantitative and qualitative research. It all resonates back to a theme we discussed at the beginning of the course, which is whether GIS is a science or a tool. This article is advocating for GIS as a GIScience, stating that GIS is a method, not a distinct quantitative or qualitative tool. Pavlovskaya, the author, further expands that quantitative and qualitative methods are also not as simple or opposite as some believe.

Pavlovskaya’s piece could have benefited from a solid introduction and definition of the term critical GIS, as to let readers unfamiliar with the topic better understand her arguments regarding the quantitative-qualitative divide. I agree with her concluding point that GIS should be better utilized in qualitative research in order to improve representation. 

This reminds me of a piece I read while researching my own topic, VGI, called “Crossing the qualitative-quantitative chasm 1: Hybrid geographies, the spatial turn, and volunteered geographic information (VGI)” by Daniel Sui and Dydia DeLyser. In this article, Sui and DeLyser argue that VGI can be a means to cross this chasm, with which I agree. Increasing qualitative research through public participation is not only a means to address top-down research tendencies, but also a way to gain data that was previously not possible to obtain. VGI and the neogeoweb give non-experts the opportunity to contribute geographic information, which is also shifting the historically-dominant role of professional geographers; I believe this shift falls right in line with critical GIS principles and its challenges to the status quo.

It’s also interesting to place Pavlovskaya’s paper in temporal context, as it was published in 2005, and I believe that in the past decade and a half there has been a lot more research that combines quantitative and qualitative research within GIS. However, this is just my perception of the field, and I do not have any hard facts to back up this belief.

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