Stuart Aitken

Statement of Interest

Bill Warntz's 1989 Annals paper on the "Geographia Generalis Varenii" suggests that Bernhard Varenius view of world was quite "special." Varenius saw geography as a science mixed with mathematics which taught about the quantitative states of the Earth (p. 172). Varenius's focus on a Cartesian view of space permeates most aspects of geography to this day, particularly in planning and GIS. This, I believe, should be of some concern because, as some critical theorists in geography point out, it is a view that hides the power of space. I argue that if we reconstitute our questions to penetrate the power of space then we need to pose them in a way that de-stabilizes the "fundamental nature" of space and time. Certain advances in critical social theory enable us to pose questions that contest the naturalness of space and time. These critiques are based upon the belief that space is a complex social product and the social is a complex spatial product. Although based upon Descartes, it may be argued that Varenius's special geography was not necessarily from an Archimedian hilltop. Although not discussed in any great detail by Warntz, Varenius's special geography also included aspects of the aesthetic and vernacular such as "life, food, drink, common speech and language, cities, memorable histories, crafts, inventions, illustrious men and women and so forth." The commingling of perspectives such as these with spatial analysis (in all its forms), GIS and planning suggests an intriguing agenda for the Varenius Project.


Barbara Herr Harthorn

Statement of interests


Trevor Harris and Daniel Weiner (not attending)

Statement of Interests

Trevor Harris and Daniel Weiner are co-leaders of the NCGIA Initiative # 19: "GIS and Society: the social implications of how people, space, and environment are represented in GIS." (http://www.geo.wvu.edu/www.i19/page.html) They are also co-PIs of an NSF funded research project which integrates GIS and political ecology for rural reconstruction in the South African lowveld. Harris's interests are in the use of GIS in geo-archaeology, GIS and society, environmental impact assessment, and spatio-temporal modeling. Weiner's research interests include political ecology, GIS and society, and African land use and agrarian reform.

The issues which interest us in the context of our research and the Geographies of the Information Society include the following:

1. The political economy of GIS To what extent does GIS support top-down and elitist decision-making and whose information is being represented? How are specific GISs politically embedded and how does the rapid diffusion of GIS change societal patterns of information access? In what ways does the use of GIS alter local power relations?

2. GIS epistemologies We are concerned here with how the world is being represented in specific GISs and what forms of knowledge are privileged over others. Of particular concern to our research is how local knowledge of space and environment might be incorporated into GIS production and use.

3. GIS and the Representations of Nature GIS is contributing to changes in how the earth's physical resource base is being represented. Our research is concerned with how this impacts the management and use of natural resources and explores GIS production and use in the context of socially differentiated access to environment.

4. Democratizing Spatial Decision Making Does GIS further bureaucratize decisions which are disconnected from ordinary people or does it provides unique opportunities for more inclusive decision-making? We are interested in GIS as a technology that democratizes and marginalizes simultaneously and are investigating the possibilities for using GIS to further democratize spatial decision-making.

5. Alternative GIS Production and Use There are many examples of people trying to use GIS with communities that are economically and politically marginalized (land rights issues for indigenous peoples in the Americas for example). Can "bottom up" GIS be successfully developed and what policy/decision making impacts might a GIS with conflicting information associated with multiple realities of space have?

There are many examples of people trying to use GIS with communities that are economically and politically marginalized (land rights issues for indigenous peoples in the Americas for example). Can "bottom up" GIS be successfully developed and what policy/decision making impacts might a GIS with conflicting information associated with multiple realities of space have?


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