Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Geographic Information Ethics and GIScience

The annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers will include two special sections  on Geographic Information Ethics and GIScience.

Session organizers are Rodolphe Devillers, Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Francis Harvey, Department of Geography, University of Minnesota; and Dawn Wright, Environmental Systems Research Institute and College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University.

From the organizers' Web site:

Ethical engagements with the multitude of GIS applications and uses, whether surreptitious or overt, have marked recent developments in the field. Indeed, the variety of applications of geographic information science & technology (GIS&T) has led the U.S. Department of Labor to highlight geospatial/geographic technologies as the third largest high-growth job field for the 21st century. While the potential benefits and risks of geographic technologies are becoming well known, these sessions provides a forum to engage ethical issues. For instance:
  • Geographic technologies are surveillance technologies. The data they produce may be used to invade the privacy, and even the autonomy, of individuals and groups.
  • Data gathered using geographic technologies are used to make policy decisions. Erroneous, inadequately documented, or inappropriate data can have grave consequences for individuals and the environment.
  • Geographic technologies have the potential to exacerbate inequities in society, insofar as large organizations enjoy greater access to technology, data, and technological expertise than smaller organizations and individuals.
  • Georeferenced photos, tweets and volunteered (and unvolunteered) geographic information can reveal private information. Those data that are increasingly publically available and used to study societal phenomena raise significant privacy concerns.
Papers in this session again engaged with the above issues in relationship to GIScience, including such topics as:
  • case studies, curriculum development, or the pedagogy of teaching GIS ethical issues;
  • issues of privacy, surveillance, inequity, erroneous or inappropriate data concerning geographic technologies;
  • codes of ethics and conduct of professional organizations;
  • GIS professional development;
  • reflections on the changing nature of ethical issues in GIS&T
These sessions are co-sponsored by the AAG GI Systems & Science and Ethics, Justice, and Human Rights Specialty Groups.
My thanks to Deepsea Dawn Wright for sharing this information.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

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