|<--||1. INTRODUCTION||CONTENTS||3. METHODOLOGY||-->|
In this chapter, we will elaborate on the main theoreticalpositions we hold in our research, and review the relevant literature, in foursections. First, we look at the inherent power of written maps. Second, weconsider the social implications of GIS' increasingly widespread use. Third,we situate ourselves in the history of applied and advocacy anthropology.Last, we discuss the continuing study of technology by anthropology.
This section discusses both a traditional and a revisionist perspective on maps by exploring the relationship between maps and the cultures that produce them, the role maps have played in the formation of empires and a states, and the ways in which maps may be used to support local empowerment and ecological awareness.
In the last few years, a new way of perceiving and interpreting maps hasarisen out of a postmodern and reflective academic tradition that increasinglyquestions claims to truth made by science. This view challenges the moretraditional notion of the Western map as purely "scientific," "objective" and"neutral," and therefore able to act as an accurate mirror of nature. In thetraditional view, the cartographic mirror of nature is refined to become moreand more "real," "accurate" (and believable): "by the application of science,ever more precise representations of reality can be produced" (Harley, 1989:4). The more recent perspective argues that maps cannot be independent fromtheir social, cultural, economic and political contexts; as such maps can beseen as cultural texts, more as mirrors of culture than as mirrors of nature.
In our research into this subject, we have been greatly inspired by twoauthors in particular. First, cartographic historian and professor ofgeography J.B. Harley has written extensively on the issue of maps and power.We have drawn especially from three of his papers: "Maps, Knowledge and Power"(1988), "Deconstructing the Map" (1989), and "Cartography, Ethics and SocialTheory" (1990) all published in Cartographica, a journal which serves asa central arena for debate and discussion for the cartography community.Harley writes primarily to the discipline of cartography with a very deliberateaim to encourage an epistemological shift in the way we interpret maps (Ibid:1).
Harley states that his aim is to critically analyze the map so that it canbe viewed as the representation of power that it is. He suggests that theobjective pretension to knowledge creation of the cartographer must come to anend and be substituted by an epistemology rooted in social science. "We canthen begin to see how maps, like art, become a mechanism for defining socialrelationships, sustaining social rules and strengthening social values" (Ibid:198). In this way, he asserts, we can counteract traditional cartography'stendency to view "maps as an impersonal type of knowledge that tend todesocialize the territory they represent ... [and] foster the notion of asocially empty space" (Harley 1988: 303). Maps reveals and conceal; andvarious social forces determine what gets on a map and what doesn't. This canbe illustrated with a few examples of how so-called, apparently "objective"maps can be biased and value-filled.
As a rule, official cartography does not view the pursuit of social goalsin the representation of the landscape as part of its mission. On the otherhand, information contributing to branches of US government or businessefficiency and competitiveness seems to have a high priority. You may askyourself about what you see on official maps produced by governmentcartographers: are there highways? toxic dumps? minority groups settlements?county lines? drug treatment centers? The bias of a map is subtle because itoften hides in what is not represented and visible. This is also spoken aboutas the silence of maps. Harley puts it well when he says: "much of the powerof the map, as a representation of social geography, is that it operates behinda mask of seemingly neutral science" (Harley 1989: 7). What is on the map canalso easily be deceiving unless you question the more subtle iconography.Harley asks: "do USGS maps really have to ignore the diversity of the religionsthey portray? Why do they continue to employ a cross sign indiscriminately fora mosque, a synagogue, and a Christian church?" (Harley, 1990: 14).
Another source of inspiration comes from David Turnbull (1993), who incollaboration with Helen Watson wrote the book Maps are Territories, Scienceis an Atlas. Both authors are associated with the Australian socialstudies program at Deakin University. Turnbull's book is a cross-culturalanalysis of the interaction between European and Aboriginal knowledge systems,structured as eleven independent exhibits, which makes extensive use of avariety of illustrative and recent and historical Western and Aboriginal maps.Turnbull states it clearly "...the mapmaker determines what is, and equallyimportant, what is not included in the representation. This is the firstimportant sense in which maps are conventional. What is on the map isdetermined not simply by what is in the environment, but also by the humanagent that produced it" (Ibid: 5). What becomes clear here is that as soon asthe objectivity of a map is challenged, the issue of power appears almostimmediately, and can be perceived by viewing the map as a text,as suggested by Turnbull.
Documents, texts, diagrams, lists, maps (discourses in general) embody power ina variety of ways. Discourses get the agenda of what kind of questions can beasked, what kind of answers are possible, and equally what kind of questionsand answers are impossible within that particular discourse or text. (Turnbull,1993: 54)
Applying these questions to any map will immediately begin to reveal the valuesembedded in a map. Try for example to find the location of bicycle trails onyour automobile road map, or the closest toxic waste dump location on yourtourist map!
As a further challenge and deconstruction of the Western map Turnbullcompares knowledge representation of different cultures. From the point ofview of the Western world, objects are seen as having fixed characteristics anddefined boundaries and as having a position specifiable by spatial co-ordinates(Ibid: 3). Turnbull makes clear from the beginning that the Western worldviewof space is challenged by the fact that:
...while spatiality may indeed be fundamental to all cultures, what actuallycounts as the "relative location" of particular objects may not be quite sobasic and may constitute one of the variable that differentiate the waycultures experience the world. ...what counts as a natural object and itsspatial relations, rather than being an invariant characteristic of the world,may instead form part of that culture's worldview, episteme, cognitive schema,ontology, or call it what you will. (Ibid: 2)
In light of this perspective on spatial relations, Turnbull suggests thatmaps demand a new standard of evaluation: "All maps can be related toexperience, and instead of rating accuracy or scienticity we should considertheir workability - how successful are they in achieving the aims for whichthey are drawn - and what is their range of application (Ibid: 42). But beforewe can consider the workability we must understand further the nature ofAboriginal maps. Turnbull writes,
Aboriginal maps can only be properly read or understood by the initiated, since some of the information they contain is secret. Their secrecy concerns the ways in which the map is linked to the whole body of knowledge that constitutes Aboriginal culture. For aborigines, the acquisition of that knowledge is a slow ritualized process of becoming initiated in the power-knowledge network, essentially a process open only to those who have passed through the earlier stages. By contrast, the Western knowledge system has the appearance of being open to all, in that nothing is secret. Hence all the objects on the map are located with respect to an absolute co-ordinate system supposedly outside the limits of our culture. (Ibid: 42)
Turnbull suggests that one might argue that everybody can read a Western map, but that understanding an Aboriginal map requires that you are initiated; and that therein lies the superiority and "universal applicability" of the Western map. However, in comparing a map of the London underground with an Aboriginal map of dreamtime landscape it may be
apparent that while sharing similar features and form, each is adifferent abstraction of a different landscape, the meaning of each is verydifferent, and requires different cultural knowledge and different"initiations" to allow interpretation.
It is important again to remember here that the deconstruction of the Western map is not an attempt to posit the importance of one map over the other, but rather to increase our awareness of the consequences of different maps' use. An important voice in the mapping community is Doug Aberley, who speaks to the present state of affairs succinctly when he writes:
Maps have become popular investments to be hoarded, and under no circumstance used for any practical purpose. Yet amongst this avalanche of geographic blather, there are only two types of maps that most people really seem to use: the ubiquitous highway or tourist map that guides us ever onward to the next consumer experience; and the useful sterility of the topographic sheet which allows us mild adventure in the guise of tourism. If you were entirely cynical, you could view the appropriation of mapping from common understanding as just another police action designed to assist the process of homogenizing 5,000 human cultures into one malleable and docile market. As a collective entity we have lost our languages, have forgotten our songs and legends, and now cannot even conceive of the space that makes up that most fundamental aspect of life - home. (Aberley 1991: 2-3)
In her book Simians, Cyborgs, and Women - the Reinvention ofNature, feminist anthropologist Donna Haraway writes about "situated knowledge" as a critical response to contemporary scientific practices of observation. Haraway writes: "feminist objectivity is about limited location and situated knowledge, not about transcendence and splitting of object and subject. In this way we might become answerable for what we learn how to see" (Haraway 1991: 190). Haraway criticizes the development of the "all encompassing eye" of modern science and technology with the "infinite vision and mobility" it allows, and suggests instead a "'reembodied' vision that initiates, rather than closes off" (Ibid: 190). She makes the point that all maps are created from some position, some cultural location, and that it is essential to make this position explicit and then explore its consequences and potentials. Haraway's voice is important because she explores the dynamics of a Western technological trajectory which tries to represent visually an "objective" map/picture of our world on a larger scale: what does this do to our ability to sense, name and see the world? This is one of the important questions we must ask ourselves in this time in which human perception is being transformed by the machines we have created.
It is important to point out that Haraway's critique is brought into thehuman body, in contrast to the intellectualization of the subject matter byother authors that we have come across. Haraway illustrates this point veryvividly in the following quote in which she argues that the objective of a moreand more "accurate" view of the world represents a serious deception,suggesting that the disembodying tendencies of Western science and technologyhave reached an apogee:
The eyes have been used to signify a perverse capacity - honed to perfection in the history of science tied to militarism, capitalism, colonialism, and male supremacy - to distance the knowing subject from everybody and everything in the interest of unfettered power. The instruments of visualization in multinationalist, postmodernist culture have compounded these meanings of dis-embodiment. The visualizing technologies are without apparent limit; the eye of any ordinary primate like us can be endlessly enhanced by sonography systems, magnetic resonance imaging, artificial intelligence-linked graphic manipulation systems, scanning electron microscopes, computer-aided tomography scanners, home and office VDTs, cameras for every purpose from filming the mucous membrane lining the gut cavity of a marine worm living in the vent gases on a fault between continental plates to mapping a planetary hemisphere elsewhere in the solar system. Vision in this technological feast becomes unregulated gluttony; all perspective gives way to infinitely mobile vision, which no longer seems just mythically about the god-trick of seeing everything from nowhere, but to have put the myth into practice. And like the god-trick this eye fucks the world to make techno-monsters. (Ibid: 190-91)
Reflecting on the literature of this section, it might seem awkward to useTurnbull's mainly Australian Aboriginal material in the context of Hawai`i.The point however is not to become focused on the specific culture involved,but rather to begin to put maps and mapping into a larger context. We havefound it to be a very illuminating experience to draw in perspectives fromother cultures because it has brought a radical new dimension to ourunderstanding of maps. As we have discussed in this section Turnbull andothers are making important contributions in describing the limitations andbiases of the Western map. Turnbull's work is also enriching because his useof non-Western maps does more than criticize Western maps - it introduces aprovocative series of alternatives. Harley on the other hand is helpfuldeconstructing the map from a cartographic perspective but does not suggestreal alternatives in his analysis. Haraway's work is not focused on maps orGIS per se, but her comments about shifts in our cultural vision, driven bytechnology, are important to the larger context of this discussion.
No discussion of Western maps would be complete, or could even begin,without an exploration of their relationship to empire, exploitation, andsocial, economic, and political power. Having suggested their intimaterelationship with culture, and their inherent biases and agendas, we nowexplore some of their effects in the world.
Viewing the map as culturally constructed makes it possible toanalyze the consequences of mapping in a larger framework of cultural historyand thereby deepen our understanding of the role of the map. In this sectionwe will give a few examples from the literature to show how mapping has playeda part in the production and consolidation of power. As we will find, in thecourse of history, maps have consistently helped to control distant lands,inventory and exploit resources, and legitimize power relations and politicalboundaries. At the base of these mapping endeavors we can identify certaincharacteristics which lead to the creation of the nation-state and empire.
Turnbull's work helps to clarify how important the map was for Europeansin their quest for territory.
Western and non-Western societies alike are based on knowledge networks, the important difference being in the mobilization of the network. The Western one can be mobilized to cover the whole earth, if not the universe, whereas aboriginal ones are usually dependent on interpersonal oral modes of transmission. One of the most effective devices that Western maps employ in creating power is the grid.... (Turnbull 1993: 55)
The "grid" refers to the overarching system of longitude and latitude lines which was officially agreed upon by the global community at an international conference in Washington in 1884 (Ibid: 26). This system established a common reference to which people from different cultures and locations around the world could locate each other's relative position: it also made it possible to collect and connect many local maps into one representation, a development which would have many significant implications, for now "maps can be combined in one central place, and enable accumulation of power and knowledge at that center" (Ibid: 26). Turnbull argues that this collection enabled by the grid is even more crucial to the power of maps than either accuracy or correspondence with reality. The following story elaborates on this point in a historical context:
La Perouse travels through the Pacific for Louis XVI with the explicit mission of bringing back a better map. One day, landing on what he calls Sakhalin he meets with the Chinese and tries to learn from them whether Sakhalin is an island or a peninsula. To his great surprise the Chinese understand geography quite well. An older man stands up and draws a map of his island on the sand with the scale and the details needed by La Perouse. Another who is younger, sees that the rising tide will soon erase the map and picks up one of La Perouse's notebooks to draw the map again with a pencil ....
What are the difference between the savage geography and the civilized one? ... The Chinese are quite able to think in terms of a map but also to talk about navigation on an equal footing with La Perouse. Strictly speaking, the ability to draw and to visualize does not really make a difference either, since they all draw maps more or less based on the same principle of projection, first on sand, then on paper.... La Perouse does something that is going to create an enormous difference between the Chinese and the European. What is, for the former, a drawing of no importance that the tide may erase, is for the latter the single object of his mission. What should be brought into the picture is how the picture is brought back. The Chinese does not have to keep track, since he can generate many maps at will, being born on this island and fated to die on it. La Perouse is not going to stay for more than a night; he is not born here and will die far away. What is he doing then? He is passing through all these places, in order to take something back to Versailles where many people expect his map to determine who was right and wrong about whether Sakhalin was an island, who will own this and that part of the world, and along which routes the next ships should sail. (Ibid: 55)
The rapid development of empire and the nation state was based on theacquisition and control of land, which depended on the utilization of maps.The assemblage of many local maps into one contiguous map made it possible forrulers from the fifteenth century onwards to command their expandingterritories from afar to the degree that military enforcement allowed theprotection of any acquired territory. The development of heavy commercialtrading was also based on the contiguous map, which in some ways exploitedlocal peoples' ignorance of each other and the larger grid. The captain with agood map could exploit the local market because he could navigate in and out oflarge territories at will, using a resource that had never been availablebefore - the map/atlas.
Harley's description of how the map relates to the many issues of powerand knowledge in his article "Maps, Knowledge and Power" is often quoted byother writers.
As much as guns and warships, maps have been the weapons of imperialism. Insofar as maps were used in colonial promotion, and lands claimed on paper before they were effectively occupied, maps anticipated empire. Surveyors marched alongside soldiers, initially mapping for reconnaissance, then for general information, and eventually as a tool for pacification, civilization, and exploitation in the defined colonies. (Harley, 1989: 282)
Whenever territories were conquered, maps came to play a more and moreprominent role in reinforcing the status quo. The military's use of maps isassociated with secrecy because territorial knowledge is fundamental and almostsacred information in any given war and therefore is protected with ultimateforce. What is where when? must be known by a well prepared army.
Taylor explores in the case of Canada "how mapping and charting endeavorshave shaped people's concepts of territory and national identity" (Taylor,1994: 1). Harley discusses this on a general level:
In modern Western society maps quickly became crucial to the maintenance of state power - to its boundaries, to its commerce, to its internal administration, to control of populations, and to its military strength. Mapping soon became the business of the state: cartography is early nationalized. The state guards its knowledge carefully: maps have been universally censored, kept secret and falsified. (Harley, 1989: 12)
McHaffie writes of the relationship between maps and power in hisbrilliant analysis of the cartographic labor process as a state entity, in thebook, Ground Truth: The Social Implications of Geographic InformationSystems. The points made here underscore the immense power and influence that the mapping process has on society at large. McHaffie brings attention to the fact that U.S. mapping was developed during the late 19th and early 20th century, which was a period in industrial capitalism where Taylorism and scientific management were predominant in the organization of the industrial production process, characterized by the production/assembly line. These developments created a shift from topographic mapping, accomplished in the field, to an assembly line approach where the map production process was broken up. Mappers became more and more like technicians in a process, and for a product, they did not control. McHaffie points to the development of aerial photography as a factor that enhanced the Taylorian production process. "The aerial photographer could in a single day photograph hundreds of square miles and supply technicians with the necessary materials for map compilation. The maps were no longer required to `slog' into the messy reality of the field in order to produce the map" (McHaffie, 1995: 119). From then on a production process was established that was much more easily watched, controlled, and manipulated by the government.
A large-scale mapping effort by the U.S. government was agreed to in theTemple Act in 1925. This act committed the government to finish a generalutility topographical survey of the entire country within 20 years. One of themissions of this large scale mapping endeavor was to serve as a precursor forgeological, hydrological and botanical investigations; to lay the foundationfor the exploitation of natural resources on an industrial level.
The mapping of Canada was characterized by the largest single integrated mapping program in the hemisphere, at a cost of more than $5 billion over thirty years. This massive project had as its goal more than just the representation of physical space. Taylor ends his article by suggesting that in looking at the most northern history of North America, the relevant question was not how Canadians created maps, but how maps created Canada. "...Canada ... could be said to be in large measure a geography become a state by being initially ruled on paper" (Taylor, 1994: 14).
Harley further states that "A mapless society, though we may take the mapfor granted, would now be politically unimaginable;" (Harley 1989: 12) in otherwords, maps are now essential to the nation-state. The nation-state has in thelast 200 years superceded the watershed and bioregion as the territory thatmost people identify with, and has been a driving force behind massive surveyand map creation efforts focused on the exploitation of resources and thecontrol of populations. That the nation-state represents a relevant subjectfor our research is well articulated by Berry and Swimme (1992).
Although the primary principle of the nation state is that it recognizes noother power higher than itself in the sociopolitical order, by the reference tosome sacred symbol in oaths of office the relation of human power to divineauthority is still shown to constitute the basis of community rule even insupposedly circular states. The nation provides the unifying constituentreality of the higher self of the individuals composing the community. Itquickly established itself as the functional myth of the community. Thenation-state can be considered one of the most powerful forms ever invented.
Of primary concern of the nation-state is the territory that itoccupies. National boundaries are sacred. To be born within this sacredterritory is to be a citizen. The territory must be defended at whatevercost. This contraction of sacred territory from the entire range of the natural world goes with a contraction in the concept of species unity in the human order. The comprehensive sacred community of the entire planet becomes less evident. So too a radical division is created between the citizens of the various nations; where one nation is sacred other nations can be seen as demonic.
Membership in a nation community easily becomes more significant thanmembership in a religious or cultural tradition. The nation-state has indeedbecome the sacred community. Although sacred in its political implications,the land occupied is recognized more as territory to be exploited economicallythan as territory to be communed with spiritually.... The nation-state wasfrom the beginning an affair of the bourgeois, of those possessing privateproperty.... (Swimme and Berry, 1992: 213)
If the nation-state has been the "sacred community," then maps have oftenbeen their bibles, delineating boundaries and reifying ownership and powerrelations. Swimme and Berry suggest that the nation-state recognizes land"more as territory to be exploited economically than to be communed withspiritually," and since it is typically large and wealthy enough to undertakethe massive surveys and mapping efforts to inventory and plot the location ofresource stores, maps produced in nation-states tend to reflect economicpriorities, not social ones. With these perspectives in mind it becomes clearthat, "Maps are preeminently a language of power, not of protest" (Harley,1988: 301).
A present day example of a large-scale mapping project is the Braziliangovernment's 1.4 billion dollar project which will attempt to control drugsmuggling, looting and other crimes through the use of GIS and high-techmonitoring systems, which will be used to map unmapped regions of therainforest, and to keep track of goings on within;
The system will superimpose state-of-the-art technology over 2 million square miles of wild frontier, where settlers and prospectors still clash with naked Indians in the primeval forest. Digital data will zip from satellites, radar and other high-tech sensors to computerized processing centers and hundreds of 'user-nodes' scattered through the hinterlands. (Long, 1995)
Harley has argued that the power of maps has not been "a power exercised over individuals but over the knowledge of the world made available to people in general" (Harley 1989: 13). This point may have been true in a time when maps required massive survey efforts and state sanction and funding - maps thus created not only included the biases and limitations of the survey, but represented the physical world at a specific time - new surveys might not be done for years, decades, or longer. However, new mapping and monitoring technologies may offer the ability to approach the equivalent of large-scale surveys at varying levels of detail, which can provide continuous, real-time information and feedback. Such technologies may produce new maps which have the power to alter our knowledge of the world, as well as to confer significant real-time power over individuals, in the form of surveillance: these potentials will be discussed in section 2.2.
Doug Aberley (1995) is one of the only Western (Cascadian/Candadian) mapmakers who not only critiques the current state of map production and use, but who also actually practices and teaches an alternative mapmaking which is grounded in situated, local knowledge. In a book called Giving the Land a Voice: Mapping our Home Places, Aberley and collaborators decrythe modern appropriation of maps by special interests.
The maps we are accustomed to have been made for commercial, not social reasons. They are our road maps, geological maps, forest resource maps, tourist maps, marine charts - an endless parade of utilitarian special interest maps. All are valuable and necessary, but they inevitably fail to reveal the essence of where we live, and how our community fits into a larger region. Until we have maps that do this, we risk being geographically located, but socially and culturally lost. (Harrington, 1995: 2)
What are the consequences of the commercialization of maps for peopleliving in specific regions? What happens when people not only no longer livein ways that are connected to seasons, local flora and fauna, and geology, butwho attempt to locate themselves on maps merely designed to link restaurants,roads, urban areas...? Aberley's perspective, alternative, and its context areimportant parts of this overall picture, and will be described in the nextsection.
Following the above discussion of the powers and implications of mapping, we present here a smaller literature on mapping which seeks to empower people in their cultural context. As mentioned above, one important figure in this literature and movement is bioregional mapper Doug Aberley, whose pioneering work seeks to awaken and empower local people to "just do it!" and take the initiative in mapping their home region. Aberley has recently directed a large scale 24 layer mapping project (including historical, social, environmental, economic layers) in the bioregion of Cascadia, which includes an area from northern California, through British Columbia, to southern Alaska. Aberley is also the author of an important resource entitled Boundaries of Home: Mapping for Local Empowerment (1993) Perhaps most significantly, Aberley, more than any other writer on these subjects we have come across, offers an empowering process that encourages one to begin mapping what is already known about one's own neighborhood/community/local area. Here he writes about a growing movement among indigenous people to express their own stories, and to defend their territory and culture with maps.
In direct opposition to the paradigm of the single global market, Aboriginal peoples are articulating a competing vision in a healthy variety of ways. Aboriginal peoples are courageously defending themselves against cultural and physical genocide. Societies swallowed in the last two hundred years of industrialization are awakening from a slumber imposed by promises of the nation state. And, perhaps most important, people of many origins who find themselves newly planted in city or in country are asserting their aspirations for political and economic regimes that mix the best of what has been taken, lost, or forgotten. At the same time, the ways of the past are being adapted to a present that offers challenging opportunities for the use of technologies which allow self-reliance and interdependence. The common element is that of reinhabitation - of place, of traditions old and new, of a future based on local aspirations for stability of life, and interconnection. (Aberley, 1993: 2-3)
The best source in the literature for specific examples of this movementcomes from the geographer and activist Peter Poole (1995a), who has justreleased a survey on 63 mapping projects around the world conducted byindigenous peoples who are utilizing manual and computerized mapping techniquesin their struggle for empowerment, land rights cases and self-determination ingeneral. This survey gives valuable information on a variety of ways thatlocal people are taking the initiative and utilizing ancient and moderntechnologies for their own mapping purposes. Poole was also the guest editorof Cultural Survival's special edition on Geomatics (1995b) which will bediscussed below, in section 4.3.2 of the history and context chapter.
Denis Wood (1992), author of Power of Maps cites ConservationInternational's efforts to co-relate the world's most biologically diverseregions to areas most threatened by habitat destruction on the map"Biodiversity at Risk."
CI (Conservation International) researchers took a significant step toward identifying habitats at greater risk by charting data showing the distribution of human disturbance of ecosystems throughout the world. This poster ... illustrates some of the most important criteria CI uses to set conservation priorities. (Wood, 1992: 190-91)
"Biodiversity at Risk" is a good example of a map whose explicit purpose is to display information about the negative consequences of human behavior, rather than simply purporting to display "neutral" geo-spatial information. It is also an example of how maps may be used deliberately for political reasons to emphasize a particular point. This map, in other words, provides an example of agenda made conscious and explicit, in contrast to most Western maps, which conceal or are themselves unaware of their agenda(s).
Stephen Hall (1992) has written a fascinating book called Mapping theNext Millennium which is an eclectic survey of diverse mapping initiativesin science today. Hall covers projects ranging from the mapping of the brainto the mapping of the outer universe, to charting the ocean floors. He alsowrites a provocative introduction to mapping and finishes with an historicaloverview which situates his research in the larger context of mapping. HereHall suggests that the field of mapping is in an unprecedented state ofactivity and possibility:
Here, as we are poised to enter the next millennium, we find ourselves in themidst of what is arguably the greatest explosion in mapping and perhaps thegreatest reconsideration of "space" (in every sense of that word), since ananonymous Babylonian first attempted to organize human knowledge of thephysical world by drawing a map of the world on a clay tablet twenty-sixcenturies ago. (Hall, 1993: 6)
After the previous discussion of the relationship between maps, culture,empire, exploitation, and protest, we suggest that such an "explosion inmapping," of which GIS will no doubt play a significant part, deserves carefulconsideration and reflection. Our view is that given the subtle and largelyunrecognized power of cartographic maps to hide their substantial biases withthe appearance of objectivity and their role in exploitation, subjugation, andempire, a thorough exploration of the new powers conferred on maps throughtheir evolution into digital, computerized form is highly appropriate.
Drawing on the revisionist theoretical perspective on maps we havedescribed in this chapter, we hope in our own research to contribute to a widerunderstanding outside the fields of cartography and geography of the importanceand power of maps, especially with respect to their recent computerizedevolution. We will place our analysis of GIS in a specific political andhistorical context, though focused on the present and future. By situating ourresearch within the current self-determination struggle of the Nation ofHawai`i in Hawai`i, we hope to gain new insight into the complexity ofknowledge representation in a modern, dynamic, and diverse social context.
In this section, we have discussed one part of the conceptual foundationfor our research in Hawai`i. In the next section, we will build on thistheoretical exploration of written maps, and introduce a series of issuesinvolving the social consequences of the utilization of Geographic InformationSystems.
In this section we give an introduction into the recent field ofliterature which explores the social implications of GIS. Concentrating ourwork into three subsections, we begin by introducing the main currentcontributors on this subject, then explore how GIS relates to assumptions ofobjectivity, neutrality, and gender, and then examine the issue of knowledgeproduction and representation in GIS, and how GIS deals with other ways ofknowing.
The success of GIS on a global scale has proceeded with a minimal amount ofdebate about the broader impacts on society. This is quite understandablebecause of the historic origins of GIS in land and property informationsystems. However, it is clearly important that as the technology starts to beused and more directly affect the environment and lives of people that there isa much better understanding of how to use it in an intelligent sensible andsensitive way. (Openshaw, 1996: *)
In the past, GIS research fell into the categories of how to build the tools, how to use the tools, and how to install the tools in an organization. Recently, however, a new prong of GIS discourse has emerged- the social implications of GIS. The idea of a critique of GIS technologies and their associated prescriptions for solving problems is one that is important and long overdue. (Scott & Cutter, 1996: *)
Both critics and supporters have little evidence of the actual result of the change in mapping technology. There have been some rudimentary economic studies, but very few studies that address the social outcomes. I believe we need well-designed research using historical reconstructions, case studies, ethnography, participant observation, and other social science methods. (Chrisman, 1996: *)
(* indicates a quote taken from a paper which appears on an InternetWorld Wide Web site, and thus has no page numbers)
In some ways it is exciting to be among the first researchers in an area;in other ways it is quite challenging. Our experience has at times made usfeel like explorers venturing into unknown territory, with few paths, guides,or maps to use in navigating the new terrain. We have been challenged not onlyto piece together a map of the relevant socio-political territory relating toGIS, but also to go beneath the surface of many issues to grasp deepermeanings beyond the rhetoric, the enthusiasm, and the hype of this large andquickly expanding industry, research and user communities.
Substantive research on the social implications of GIS has only recentlyemerged (primarily in the last three years), and mainly in the field ofgeography. Relevant commentary and discussion have appeared from writers inother fields, but geographers are for the most part the only critical examinersof both the social origins and social consequences of Geographical InformationSystems technology. We have found three sources as primary areas ofconcentrated reflection: a book entitled Ground Truth: The SocialImplications of Geographic Information Systems, edited by John Pickles(1995); Sheppard and Poiker's editing of the January 1995 issue ofCartography and Geographic Information Systems, under the title "GIS andSociety;" and position papers of a very recent conference sponsored by theNational Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) focused on thetopic of "GIS and Society." (March 1996)
On a general note relating to all the literature we have reviewed, we mustsay that we have mostly seen works of either intellectual hypotheses andcritique, or specific, relatively unreflective, focused applications of GIS.While both are often useful and illuminating, one thing became clear to usright away in this research, and that was the consistent calls for, and obviousneed for, more comprehensive, grounded and critical research. The criticalresearch on the social implications of GIS is very nascent, and it is to thecredit of John Pickles, Eric Sheppard, Tom Poiker, Peter Poole, and the NCGIAthat important issues relating to the potentials and pitfalls of thistechnology are being raised at all in a forum for debate and reflection.
However, while the many discussions of use of this technology for social control and surveillance by a "GIS technocracy" are disturbing enough (Obermeyer, 1995, 1996), what is perhaps more unnerving is the prospect that the debates over ethics and social implications of these issues should take place only among a self-selected group of geographers. While they have made a good beginning, delineating major issue areas and asking many provocative questions, we suggest that it is time for the discussion to be broadened to include sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, linguists, philosophers, historians, and other relevant disciplines and communities (such as local community groups, the GIS software and consulting industry, etc.). The added inspiration of other theoretical currents, methodologies, and perspectives can only enrich the exploration of these issues, we feel. Ultimately the subject matter should be broadened to situate GIS into a larger context of information technology, social transformation, and other related global trends and currents. An exploration of the actual relationship between critical research and applied GIS work, innovation, and industry is paramount, though we saw it thoroughly treated only by Miller (1995), in an article entitled "Beyond Method, Beyond Ethics, Integrating Social Theory into GIS and GIS into Social Theory" where he discusses the tendencies and reasons for dismissal of academic research by applied GIS or geography practitioners, and elaborates on the crucial relationship between designers and users. (Miller's work will be considered in the final chapter.)
As one example of the potential benefit to this research by anotherdiscipline, anthropology stands to add a grounded, qualitative dimension to theresearch on the social impacts of GIS through participant observation andethnographic research, along with its emphasis on keeping an open mind andattempting to make personal biases clear. Additionally, to some extent,anthropology has problematized such concepts as "objective," "neutral," and(hard) "scientific." This is relevant because as we will discuss below, thereare many proponents of geography and GIS who assume that maps are indeedneutral, objective, scientific mirrors of reality, and deny (or haven'texplored the implications of) the inherently biased, subjective, and culturalnature of maps. Ethnography, on the other hand, has largely resolved to tellstories, seeking to explore the telling and the impacts of the teller's owncultural context, as much as the subject of the story, thereby revealing thesubjective nature of stories. Issues of power, representation, and knowledgehave been deeply explored in anthropology, and such experience could perhapsillumine and foster productive reflection in geography, cartography, and theGIS realm in general.
We would like to organize our discussion of this literature into two areas that directly relate to our research intentions. First we explore the critique that GIS is not a neutral, objective, value-free mirror for the world, but rather that it is a socially constructed. Second, GIS is examined for the ways in which it may privilege some forms of information and knowledge and exclude others, the way information may be manipulated and "re-formed" to fit the specific requirements of a GIS database, and the extent to which all information is value-laden.
We begin by asking, to what extent is GIS a neutral, objective, value-free mirror for the world, and to what extent is it a product of the society that created it? From the perspective of the GIS user, GIS software producers, and the enthusiastic industries surrounding GIS, one may easily get the impression that this is a straightforward, politically neutral technology developed for specific applications, which has become better at representing and providing information about the physical world over the last decade of its mass production. (Some sources of this perspective might be Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), GIS World magazine, GIS trade conferences, the Government Technology Bulletin, Scholten (1990)). This perspective mirrors the traditional view of the "neutral," "objective" western cartographic map.
Within recent academic research on GIS, we have found a very consistentcritique similar to the critique of cartographic maps, that GIS not only hassocial effects, but that it is itself formed by, permeated with, and embeddedin Western social values and assumptions. Aitken and Michel (1995) assert thatnot only is this a significant realization in itself, but it is very helpful,in understanding GIS, to start from this conceptual foundation. Sheppardstates it clearly, "(GIS) is not a value-free tool, but views the world throughparticular filters. Some of these filters may reflect the technical conditionsof digital computing, others may reflect the particular paths that GISdevelopment has taken, and thus also the societal conditions shaping thesepaths" (Sheppard, 1995: 12).
The embeddedness of GIS is explored in several probing essays and articlesthat have significantly increased our understanding and awareness of the deepernature and assumptions of this technology, and of our society. Roberts andSchein (1995: 178) suggests that the central assumption of GIS is that it canproduce a perfect representation of the physical world. Hillis (1996:*) suggests that this quest for perfect representation is motivated by anancient Western longing for absolute clarity, a sort of philosopher's stone ofconsciousness . Deconstruction of GIS in the literature has led to manyassertions: that GIS and computers in general are based on binarydigitization, Euclidean geometry, Boolean logic, Newtonian ontology, Westernepistemology and ontology, and that all these are essentially cultural, notneutral or objective foundations and have cultural consequences (Sheppard,1995; Miller, 1995; Rundstrom, 1995; McHaffie, 1996; Sui, 1996; Veregin,1996; Scott and Cutter, 1996).
Upon examining this literature we found ourselves increasingly dubiousabout the implicit and explicit claims of GIS to be a neutral technology whichoffers a mirror of "physical reality." In the words of Veregin (1996*), whospeaks here about maps in the context of GIS: "Because underlying values areoften not consciously recognized, maps tend to reflect the social order and toreify and legitimate it. The rules of social order insert themselves into mapsin a way that makes the map a commentary on the social structure of the placeand time it was created." The ways in which this technology is actually ladenwith subtle, hidden theories and assumptions about society should interest andconcern both social theorists, activists, users, and developers alike. Allthis having been said however, we quite agree with Sheppard (1995) in that weshould recognize the power and creativity of current GIS and their innovators;to acknowledge what they have enabled and contributed, and yet to recognizetheir embeddedness within a larger cultural matrix.
As one example of embeddedness and non-neutrality, Sheppard points outthat GIS has a reductive data structure, in that individuals are thefundamental unit of analysis. Quoting an earlier article by Levine, heexplains that this amounts to a social theory of "methodological individualism:'the view that social explanations are ultimately reducible to individual-levelexplanations' ... [although] the inventory of individual properties which arethe basis for explaining social phenomena extend far beyond the beliefs,desires, and other psychological properties of individuals" (Sheppard, 1995:11). Sheppard points out that while this assumption is a feature of most GIS,it does not have to be.
Important contributions come from several writers who examine the ways inwhich Western society's social structure affects GIS and our perception of theworld. McHaffie (1996*) suggests that GIS is a heavily gendered technology,emerging from a male, rational, disembodied mindset of thescientific-technological culture. Haraway (1991) argues from a feministperspective that GIS and other related technologies feed the Western appetitefor disembodied images, which ultimately affirms the omnipotence of the "God'sview" (seeing Earth from space), and implicitly, the Godlike nature of thatview's creators. Haraway criticizes GIS' developers for hiding theconstructors of the images and interface so completely, rendering invisible thebiases and agendas that underlie the creation of these systems.
In an important passage from Geographic Imagination, Gregory(1994) quotes Heidegger and examines the relationship between the "world aspicture," anthropocentrism, and objectivity: it is so significant that we willquote it at length.
"The fundamental event of the modern age is the conquest of theworld-as-picture." For it is through the process of enframing that " mancontends for the position in which he can be that particular being who givesthe measure and draws up the guidelines for everything that is" ...Within thismodern optic, the "certainty of truth" is made to turn on the need to establisha distance between observer and observed. From that position (from thatperspective) order may be dis-covered and re-presented... Without a separationof the self from a picture ... it becomes impossible to grasp "the whole," theexperience of the world as an enframed totality, something that forms astructure or system ...What makes such a conception so unusual is that theprocess of enframing on which it relies conjures up a framework that seems toexist apart from, and prior to, the objects it contains - a framework thatappears "as order itself, conceived in no other terms than the order of what`appears' as order itself, conceived in no other terms than the orderless, thecoordinator of what was discontinuous." This is a highly particular way ofgoing about, and indeed being in the world, so Mitchell argues, which ispeculiar to European modernity ... Indeed, non-Occidental visitors to the worldexhibitions at the close of the nineteenth century saw them as emblematic of "the strange character of the West, a place where one was continually pressed into service as a spectator by a world ordered so as to represent. (Gregory, 1994: 36)
"A framework that seems to exist apart from, and prior to, the objects itcontains," recalls the grid discussed in the previous chapter, and invokesHaraway's work, who goes beyond merely pointing out the distance between viewer and viewed, and writes about the tendency for GIS to foster disembodied knowledge, a point explored by Gregory.
The systematic privilege accorded to vision within Western modernity.... Thisprivilege is central to GIS and other, still more radical developments invirtual reality and cyberspace. The power to display complex data sets inthree dimensions, to rotate, manipulate and track across their terrains and tocollapse continental and even global landscapes with agonizing clarity duringthe Gulf War of 1990-1991, a conflict which Smith describes as the firstfull-scale GIS war.
The first, and still most famous image of the whole unshadowed globe wascaptured in December 1972.... My point is that even these high-tech globalimages that construct the world-as-exhibition in such a dazzling display haveto be produced from somewhere. The subsequent development of GIS has hiddenits viewing platforms even more effectively, however, and much of thediscussion continues to treat GIS as a detached "science" or as a naturalcommodification of information. In doing so a rhetoric of concealment isdeployed that passes over these configurations of power-knowledge in virtualsilence.
It is precisely this ideology of abstraction and detachment, the hiddenplatform, that Haraway calls into question through her discussion of situatedknowledges. She challenges the modern decorporealization of vision, which shedescribes in resolutely Foucaultian terms as the gaze that "mythicallyinscribes all the marked bodies, that makes unmasked the claim and the power tosee and not be seen, to represent while escaping representation," and arguesthat this myth is carried forward and embodied within the visualizing practicesof late twentieth century technosciences.
"Vision in this technological feast becomes unregulated gluttony; allperspective gives way to infinitely mobile vision, which no longer seems justmythically about the god-trick of seeing everything from nowhere, but to haveput the myth into ordinary practice."
Haraway is not talking about geology or GIS either, but the parallels aremuch closer. The NASA photograph exemplifies exactly that "god-trick of seeingeverything from nowhere," and subsequent developments in remote sensing and GIShave extended the reach of human vision still further.... (Ibid: 64-66)
As Wood (1992) argues in The Power of Maps, the increasingtransparency of GIS images both to the user and to the viewer of its imageshides the producer, the assumptions and limitations of the software, and yetincreases its claims to objectivity and neutrality. In the case of GIS, one ofthe most fundamental unstated (and perhaps unintended) consequences may be thecreation of a new arena - a new virtual world that (as in the map (Harley 1989)allows conquest and exploitation in this world. "The digital landscapebecomes a terrain for elite planners to negotiate social differences andterritorial conflict. In the process, workers, minorities, women, poorpeasants, and the unemployed, become even further distanced from thedecision-making process" (Weiner, 1995: 30). Schoenhoff suggests in this vein,that "...we have traded actuality for increased manipulation" (1993: 98). Thisvirtual world is taken to be essentially real because of the seductiveness andbeauty of the medium, the invisibility of both the technology and its creators,as well as the disembodied-ness of the viewer. An essential point here is thatGIS differs from the map in that it may not simply be mistaken for theterritory, but that it may in fact be substituted for the territory.Couclecis elaborates:
Just as television (unlike the newspaper) blurs spatio-temporal distinctionsand substitutes the illusion of direct experience for the narrative ("once upona time, once upon a place..."), GIS (unlike the map or the text) lets you seeand explore the world without the hassle of the trip, the field work, theregional study, the voyage of discovery. Come on, kids, let's have GIS showyou your neighborhood! Look through this screen, politicians, and see whereyour worst problem lie! (Couclecis, 1996: *)
Such developments as cyberspace and the virtual worlds of GIS not onlyprovide countless areas for research and exploration, but we suggest theymust be studied, critiqued, and evaluated to ascertain their impact onand potential for society. While this is beginning to happen, more explorationis needed; especially utilizing cross-cultural reflection, which maycontinuously expand and renew the debate. One problem with today's trajectoryin GIS and mapping is raised by Couclecis: "...others have commented on thedangers of reducing the geographic to the measurable and the visual, and of thesilent, invisible, or abstract geographies that may fall by the wayside" (1996:*). This point invokes a subject we want to explore in the followingsection - that of other geographies, perspectives, worldviews, and paradigms;the ways in which they are systematically excluded by GIS, and their ability toshed light on the deeper nature of GIS and its potentials.
Perhaps the central questions to ask with regard to knowledgerepresentation in GIS are: what types of GIS-ready information generallyexist, and what types of information are either excluded or not even consideredfor inclusion into GIS?
With respect to typical GIS data subjects, Sheppard (1995) and Atkinson(1993) maintain that geographic analysis is driven by the availability of data,and that data collection is driven not by theory or public participation andneed, but by people and institutions who may or may not have any idea of whatthe varied data needs of different communities are.
Barndt (1996) deepens this point, suggesting a certain question thatis not generally asked, and alluding to the power of existing data to limit theterms of debate: "While it is easier to demonstrate the power of GIS byperforming exercises which fit the data that is most available, it is importantto ask the question - What data is needed? Data frequently focuses upondeficiencies and problem indicators individuals face rather than the failuresof institutions that are important elements in the problems communitiesidentify" (Barndt, 1996: *). The subtle ways that existing GIS data setsdefine the parameters of debate, limit the questions that can be asked, andinsert subtle biases and assumptions into the fray are essential areas forfurther focused, contextualized research.
What types of information are either excluded or not even considered? InPickles' book Ground Truth: The Social Implications of GeographicInformation Systems, Harris (1995) asserts that in this top-down bureaucratic data production model, GIS "empowers the powerful and disenfranchises the weak and not so powerful via the selective participation of groups and individuals" (Pickles, 1995: 202). The potential for GIS to utilize local, "fuzzy", and non-Western knowledge systems is a subject of speculation and debate by many authors (including Proctor, 1996; Sui, 1996; Weiner, 1996; Rundstrom, 1995; Sheppard, 1995; Pickles, 1995), and is by no means resolved. One of the most interesting recent contributions is a team working in South Africa and West Virginia, which is exploring how GIS can incorporate multiple realities and competing representations of space and environment, and includes experimentation with multimedia GIS. This team is broadening the use of computer-based geographical information through a GIS production process that includes community participation. Of particular interest are the ways in which "voices from below" are digitally represented and how socially differentiated local knowledge might be incorporated into GIS production and use (Weiner 1995: 55).
We only allude to these important issues of knowledge selection andincorporation here and will further explore them later in the thesis. It willbe suggested that such a new GIS system could require a completely newunderstanding of what information is, and a dramatically expanded ability tocollect and integrate knowledges of different types into a GIS.
If some forms of knowledge are privileged, an important area to examinehere is the issue of their data bias. Much of the critical literature we readis in agreement that as in non-computerized maps, data is never neutral, butrather is laden with the biases of those who produced it. As Hillis says,
...to believe that data might be value free suggests a credulousness, or amisplaced faith that they exist in a natural state like rocks or trees. Theyare not composed of the same substances as that which they represent. Data aremore like metaphors or `mappings' which equally can serve to disguise or maskthe spaces they represent, as to reveal invisible particularities in spatialform. (Hillis, 1996: *)
Many authors suggest that the use of second-hand data is not without risk, as it is "already laden with theories, purposes and social norms of the agencies who collect them..." (Scott and Cutter, 1996*).
A very productive way to explore these issues further is to examine thework of several authors who explode the traditional debate of a Westerntechnology being evaluated by Western theories. Challenging us to considerwholly alternative ways of knowing and seeing, they offer us the opportunity tosee afresh, from indigenous peoples' perspectives. This not only reveals thecultural nature of GIS, but offers a challenge to any claim that GIS representsthe "best" cultural approach (Rundstrom, 1995; Wiener, 1995; Harris, 1995).Weiner (1996: *) even goes so far as to suggest that the "astounding success"of GIS has been based upon its being composed of "one non-contradictoryperception of reality." Sui (1996: *) poses the question, "Has GIS technologyinadvertantly marginalized other insightful epistemologies?"
In a provocative and somewhat daring article, Rundstrom (1995)suggests that with the benefit of experience in an indigenous context, GIS isseen in new ways - our assumptions and biases are significantly challenged, andother alternatives are revealed. GIS, he claims, fosters (and emerges from) ananthropocentric view of the world - one that considers only the needs ofhumans, and sees the world as fully manipulatable and existing for the benefitand exploitation of humans. Indigenous people, he claims, see the world morefrom a "biocentric" perspective, that is, one in which humans assume a part ofa larger whole of life and interconnectedness.
Rundstrom asserts that contrary to the many binary oppositions anddualities of Western thinking (perhaps based on the digital computer) in whichambiguities are a liability, indigenous thought emphasizes ambiguities,which are essential to preserve the nuances of meaning and the subtleties oflife. Proctor (1996: *) elaborates, "Any fuzziness in (the GIS as mirror ofnature) is understood to be a function of biological complexity - to be reducedas more data become available."
In a direct reply to, and in support of Haraway in the first sectionabove, Rundstrom discusses the purposes and implications of inscribedknowledge; of separating knowledge from the knower.
...each time the information is used it becomes more distant from its original intent and context. It starts losing layers of meaning almost immediately. This is especially relevant to the aesthetic, ceremonial, and spiritual character of human existence. In contemporary GIS technology, "re-presentation" retains only the form of the knowledge, not its full content. The information becomes a mere shadow of what it used to be.... inscribed knowledge enables the source and recipient of the knowledge to be separated in time and space. In the GIS community, such separation is an enormous asset partly because it is important for remotely located specialists to have convenient access to the GIS, and partly because the Western world, particularly the United States, still perceives itself as the overseer.... (1995: 52)
Thus knowledge incription leads to the loss of meaning and separation ofviewer and viewed which, while criticized by Haraway, is viewed as a distinctasset by others.
It is challenging to be concise in our report on the rich material in thissection; Rundstrom alone raises countless points that should be considered ingreat detail. Rundstrom (1995), Weiner (1995a), Harris (1995), Schoenhoff(1993), Turnbull (1993), Wood (1992), and Poole (1995) all add very importantdimensions to this discussion, which challenge many of the basic, fundamentalpremises of the Western debate in general.
While many authors are optimistic about the possibility that GIScan integrate multiple knowledge systems and voices, or at least that it isworth trying, Rundstrom is skeptical.
My interests in the geographical ideas of indigenous peoples of North Americaand the impact of Western technology in non-Western settings have led me toconsider GIS as potentially toxic to human diversity, notably the diversity ofsystems for knowing about the world. I will argue two main points: theWestern or European-derived system for gathering and using information is innumerous ways incompatible with corresponding systems developed by indigenouspeoples of the Americas; and GIS technology, when applied cross-culturally, isessentially a tool for epistemological assimilation, and as such, is the newestlink in a long chain of attempts by Western societies to subsume or destroyindigenous cultures. (Rundstrom, 1995: 45)
We remain open about the potential of GIS use by indigenous people,though we keep a very (responsibly) critical eye toward any and all claims maderegarding the benefits of this new technology. Despite the enthusiasm of theGIS industry and the optimism of some of the research for socially beneficialpotentials of this technology, there are also many important explorations ofthe potentials for GIS to be used for surveillance, social control, andconsolidation of state power.
The discipline of anthropology, like all academic disciplines, hasundergone substantial changes since its inception. Several scholars suggestthat one central shift has been from a purely abstract approach; research forthe sake of knowledge acquisition, to the emergence of an increasingly"applied," anthropology in the last thirty to fifty years. (Chaiken andFleuret, 1990; Allen, 1994; Stull 1987) In our own research, we have found ituseful to understand the nature and background of "applied" and "abstract"anthropology. Stull and colleagues offer one perspective.
Some argue that there are fundamental differences in the theories and methodsof "applied" and "abstract" anthropology. Our view is that all anthropologistsutilize the same array of theoretical frameworks and research methods. If themethodology is carefully articulated, there can be no question about thesoundness of anthropological research in an applied setting. The differencesbetween applied and abstract anthropology lie in the processes of selecting theproblem, deciding on appropriate methodology, analyzing the results, andutilizing the information. (Stull, 1987: 3)
It may be true that the process of selecting the problem and methodology,analyzing the results and utilizing the information are what distinguishapplied from abstract anthropology, but an implicit suggestion in Bodley's(1990) pioneering work in Victims of Progress is that an even morecentral issue than the stated purpose of research, or whether it is "applied"or not, is to ask - what are the actual effects of anthropology's application,and what are the hidden biases, beliefs, and power relationships that maycontribute to these effects? Stull, suggests that while the roots of appliedanthropology go back more than fifty years - that "anthropology began with acommitment to resolve human problems. The work of the Aboriginal ProtectionSociety in London and the Women's Anthropological Society of Washington in the19th century initiated a series of dialogues on the proper role of the socialsciences in problem solving and social change"(Stull, 1987: 1). However, asBodley clearly articulates, it is important to go beyond merely acknowledginganthropologists' application of research, and look into the actual effects oftheir work: "to resolve human problems," as it turns out, is itself aproblematic intention.
Bodley explores the history and implications of research on and withindigenous people, and points out that given the continued destruction ofindigenous peoples in the last two centuries, there have been several responsesfrom researchers over time. Some researched to "save the data" before it isdestroyed, some tried to minimize the most negative effects of the conquest,others have supported the integrationist policies of states. However, untilthe early 20th century and the advent of the "humanitarian preservationists,"(so called because of their commitment to the right of indigenous peoples todetermine their own destiny, free of outside interference), no one saw beyondthe paradigm of the time and advocated just leaving indigenous people alone.This point is essential in understanding that research may indeed be intendedfor 'the solution of human problems,' but this leaves unaddressed countlessissues, including that of power dynamics: Bodley reminds us that for someresearchers allied with states, indigenous peoples have been problems tobe solved.
Today there are groups dedicated to research and direct support ofindigenous peoples. This approach could be called "advocacy" anthropology, andincludes the Anthropology Resource Center (ARC), the International WorkingGroup for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Cultural Survival, SurvivalInternational, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), Colonialism andIndigenous Minorities Research and Action (CIMRA), and InternationalDevelopment Action (IDA) (Bodley, 1990: 204-206). A main focus of "applied,"and "advocacy" anthropology is a general "brokering between local communitiesand larger sociopolitical entities" (Stull, 1987: 10) for the empowerment ofthese less powerful, often sociopolitically marginalized groups. Suchanthropological research has often been critical of traditional "top-down"development approaches, and is credited to some extent by Chaiken and Fleuretfor the shift "away from assumptions that benefits would indeed `trickle-down'to the rural masses, and towards a new emphasis on local participation in allphases of the development process" (Chaiken and Fleuret, 1990: 13-14).
In the foreword to Allen's (1994) Media Anthropology, MaryCatherine Bateson asserts that anthropology students of the last three decadeshave demanded greater "relevance" and "marketability" from their professors,departments, discipline, and from their own research efforts (Allen, 1994:xiv). On a larger level, this demand by students coincides with the emergingimportance of issues relating to cultural difference at many levels of society,and the breakdown of the formerly predictable, insular arenas of theanthropologist. Bateson explains,
At one time, most anthropologists lived in neatly segmented worlds, eachoffering considerable privacy: the field, the academy, the home society. Inthe field the anthropologist was ethnographer - looking, listening andobserving, learning the ways of some other community, usually small and exotic.In the academy, the anthropologist was educator and expert. In the society atlarge, the anthropologist merited mild curiosity and was largely irrelevant.Each sphere of activity called for a different kind of behavior, even adifferent language.
This is no longer the case. Anthropologists are increasingly acting asliaisons between their research communities and outsiders, while questions ofcultural difference have acquired central policy-making importance. ....Decisions are being everywhere for which anthropologists have essential input,and it must be made available. The comfortable privacy of the academy is nolonger a refuge. (Ibid: xiiv-xiv)
What is the nature of the "essential input" anthropologists have to offerthe "real" world of social problems, and is it offering this input today?Susan Allen discusses this issue,
...anthropology is unique among all of Western science in its potential tobuild contextual frameworks on which to hang the scattered details of life andevoke a perspective that asks us to see the seemingly separate aspects of lifein that context, as part of their larger whole. Through some inspired visionor magical piece of synchronicity, the theories and methods that can provide aframework for global, intercultural, and perhaps even holistic perspectiveswere developed by the profession of anthropology as it generated the tools tounderstand "whole" cultures. It is now up to us anthropologists to learn toapply these methods and theories - and the perspectives they make possible - toissues of the day, within a global context.
For example, as American Anthropological Association past-presidentAnnette B. Weiner and anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson recently asked in aChronicle of Higher Education article (1992), "Where are the anthropologists?"in the current, befuddled national debate on multiculturalism! The absence ofan anthropological voice in this debate is being sorely felt - as it is in mostother topical issues. I suggest this is primarily because what we need to aidunderstanding of these complex topics is not "more information" but somecontext and perspective for the information we have. (Ibid: xviii-xix)
The direct involvement of anthropologists in the debates and conflicts ofmodern times and modern society is increasing. One unprecedented example isthe recent direct intervention by the American Anthropological Association(AAA) into a crisis facing indigenous people in Sri Lanka. The AAA sent aletter in March 1996 to Sri Lanka's Prime Minister which communicated theassociation's objection to the displacement of the Wanniya-laeto people fromtheir ancestral land that they have inhabited for 28,000 years, and asked fortheir return or access to the land. Daniel Goleman writes that action,
...was the first formal action by a Committee for Human Rights established bythe association last October in a step designed to move anthropology as aprofession to an activist stance taken only erratically in the past, andusually by individual anthropologists. The letter marked the first time theanthropological association has actively intervened in a dispute, although ithas taken political positions in the past....
(One of the) Principles of Professional Responsibility of theanthropological association ... reads: "In research, an anthropologist'sparamount responsibility is to those he studies. When there is a conflict ofinterest, these individuals must come first."
That principle, which was formalized in 1968, has led to what someanthropologists say amounts to a generational schism within the profession.Many anthropologists trained in the 1970's and 1980's were taught that theirprofession demanded an activist stand.
"I teach anthropologists in training," (anthropologist) Dr. Turner said,"that people have a right to their culture and that human rights concerns areinextricably bound up with being an anthropologist." But among those trainedin earlier eras, more view their discipline as a pristinely scientific endeavorand see any activism on behalf of the people they study as something that is tobe done independently of their professional work, if at all.
Dr. Greaves said, "Those who oppose anthropologists taking these standsargue that we're scientists, not activists." (Goleman, 1996: B8)
We situate our research in the tradition of anthropology's evolutiontoward greater levels of social engagement and practical application, andspecifically chose the California Institute of Integral Studies' Social andCultural Anthropology department for its emphasis on this type of anthropology.We feel that the debate between engaging in "science" and "activism" is anartificial one, as all social (and "hard science") research projects haveagendas, biases, and political implications. Instead of attempting toestablish credibility and power behind a mask of a "detached," "neutralscience," we choose to be explicit about our biases and intentions to the bestof our ability, that we might bring the benefit of clarity to our own researchprocess, and help the reader to be more aware of the subjective sources of thiswork, and thereby be better able to critically interpret it. To the extentthat we succeed with this approach, we will explore the boundaries ofanthropology as both a rigorous art form, and a messy science.
In this section of the literature review we will briefly explore therelationship between technology and culture by giving a concise overview of afew works and perspectives which we find most pertinent and illuminating forour work. Many works and approaches can perhaps be characterized by one of twoperspectives (Sheppard, 1995): 1) technologies are neutral and objective toolsdesigned for specific purposes; and 2) technologies emerge out of dynamicsocial processes, influenced by and influencing the culture from which it came.The first approach generally views technology as an applied science whichinevitably leads to progress, and to the "development" and "evolution" ofsociety. For the second approach, an understanding of the cultural backgroundof the technology is just as important as an understanding of the statedpurposes for its creation, or its technical specifications.
Anthropology is only just beginning to engage in an exploration of thetransformation of society wrought by the emergence of recent informationtechnologies. This exploration is informed by the second approach totechnology - focusing on the dynamic interaction between culture andtechnology, and its nascence may be related to an only recent realization oftechnology's potential as culture crucible: Escobar (1994) suggests in hisarticle "Welcome to Cyberia: Notes on the Anthropology of Cyberculture," that"anthropologists might be particularly well prepared to understand theseprocesses (involving the relationship of technology with culture) if they wereto open up to the idea that science and technology are crucial arenas for thecreation of culture in today's world" (Escobar, 1994: 211). Downey (1995)assert that one reason for this historical lack of anthropological sensitivityto the cultural importance of technology has been because,
Throughout its history, anthropological discourse has taken for granted a sharpdistinction between the activities of society and the development of scienceand technology. That is, in contrast with cultural action in other socialarenas, science and technology appear to develop according to their owninternal logics within specialized technical communities whose deliberationsare essentially opaque and presumably free of cultural content. (Downey, 1995:265)
Suggesting the complex dynamics involved in this study and inanthropology's rapid evolution, Escobar also points out that "Foranthropologists, inquiry into the nature of modernity as the background forcurrent understanding and practice of technology is of paramount importance"(Escobar, 1994: 213). Thus, "The point of departure of this inquiry is thebelief that any technology represents a cultural invention, in the sense thatit brings forth a world; it emerges out of particular cultural conditions andin turn helps to create new ones" (Ibid: 211). Downey states it another way,
Cyborg anthropology ... (examines) the argument that human subjects andsubjectivity are crucially as much a function of machines, machine relations,and information transfers as they are machine producers and operators. Fromthis perspective, science and technology affect society through the fashioningof selves rather than as external forces. (Downey, 1995: 266)
The premises that technology is socially situated, and has socialconsequences, are essential insights which comprise one basic theoreticalfoundation of our research.
Anthropology since 1992 has formally involved itself as a discipline in anew area of study called "Cyborg Anthropology," through panels and specialmeetings within the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Escobar (1994)writes about this new field,
...the main goal of Cyborg Anthropology is the ethnographic study of theboundaries between humans and machines that are specific to late 20th centurysocieties ... While nature, bodies, and organisms certainly have an organicbasis, they are increasingly produced in conjunction with machines, and thisproduction is always mediated by scientific narratives ("discourses" ofbiology, technology and the like) and by culture in general. Cyberculture mustthus be understood as the overarching field of forces and meanings in whichthis complex production of life, labor, and language takes place. (Escobar,1994: 216-217)
Anthropologist Matthew Bronson (1996) has contributed to this field in arecent article called "Cyberutopia or Cyberdistopia?"
It is no matter of argument that our society is in the midst of tumultuouschange instigated largely by the increasing impact of information technology onthe way we do business, form relationships with each other, live our lives.Much of the public discourse on the topic has tended to hyperbole of one formor another which has tended to obfuscate the real issues and make meaningfuldialog increasingly problematic. The two dominant points of view might besummed up as: computing will be the death of us and computing will inevitablycreate, a far better world. (Bronson, 1995: 1)
Bronson suggests instead that we embrace "a balanced appreciation of boththe promise and pitfalls of our headlong rush into the brave new world beforeus" (Ibid: 1). As two examples of the unanticipated consequences andpotentials of technology's introduction, television, we are told by Rheingold(1993: 15), was hailed and promoted by intellectuals and journalists in the1950's as an unprecedented tool for education; while the Internet, now servingmany millions of civilians, began as a military-based communications network.These examples suggest the need for reflection and debate of both the "promiseand pitfalls" of new technologies. Our own research tries to explore theopportunities GIS offers while continually seeking to illumine the potentialdangers and pitfalls of implementing this technology.
A technology's design and subsequent use by another community raisesimportant issues for research and understanding. Escobar emphasizes theimportance of the human-computer interface in computer technologies, andmaintains that thus far the field of "interface anthropology" has treated it"...narrowly...as a problem of engineering design which attempts to match thetasks to be performed with the tools at hand" (Escobar, 1994: 218).
The most recent American Anthropological Association meeting inWashington, DC. (1995: the 94th annual) included an arena for presentation anddiscussion of technological design, interface, and use. The main theme for thesession was devoted to the exploration of the relationship between 'communitiesof technological practice' and the design of technology. Several papersaddressed the importance of the interface between users and designers as one ofthe central issues underlying how human communities are being transformed bytechnology, and especially by communication technologies.
As engineers and other technical personnel engage in the work of designing newcomputer technologies, a complex interaction develops between those who designthe technology, those who will use the technology, and the technology as amedium in and of itself. In this process, communities of technologicalpractice arise which have their own values and structure. At one level, thesecommunities have an impact upon the actual design of the technology, at thesame time as the technology has an impact on the participants'conceptualization of community. (Session abstract 0-007, 1995 AAA Conference)
Stacia Zabusky's (1995) paper, "The Stupid User: Transparent Computersand Technical Communities in Non-technical Organizations" found that "thetechnician's effort is to make the computer infrastructure more and moretransparent for the end user." Zabusky argues that this technical strategy doesnot have the effect of producing self-reliant producers but instead produces"stupid users." Lucy Suchman's (1995) presentation in the same conferencesession directly responded to Zabusky. In her paper, "Reconfiguring Networksof Technological Practice," Suchman proposes that "recent reconceptualizationsof knowledges as multiple, partial, and situated offer a way to begin toreplace the current designer/user opposition in technology production - anopposition that closes off possibilities for recognizing the subtle andprofound differences that actually do divide us" (Suchman, 1995).
Escobar (1994: 218) argued that "the critical question of what thetechnology in question does to users and what it allows them to do is neverraised." A year later Suchman (1995) begins to raise (and encourage action on)this issue when she writes, "By deliberately going against the logics thatcurrently dominate job and technology design, we hope to contribute todisruptive and reconstructive interventions in to current configurations oftechnology production and use." This discussion is very relevant inunderstanding the possibilities and implications of a GIS produced outof a western worldview for an indigenous culture.
Howard Rheingold (1993) adds to this discussion of user/designer power andpotential with particular emphasis on insights from his own personalexperiences touring early virtual communities in his book: The VirtualCommunity - Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Rheingold hasresearched how communities coevolve with new technologies, and suggests thatcomputer moderated communication (CMC) "enables people to do things with eachother in new ways, and to do altogether new kinds of things - just as thetelegraph, telephones, and television did" (Rheingold, 1993: 6). Rheingoldinsists that while new technologies do confer significant new potentials, theydo not do so automatically:
The technology that makes virtual communities possible has the potential tobring enormous leverage to ordinary citizens at relatively little cost -intellectual leverage, social leverage, commercial leverage, and mostimportant, political leverage. But the technology will not in itself fulfillthat potential; this latent technical power must be used intelligently anddeliberately by an informed population. (Ibid: 4)
Rheingold stresses the political implications of CMC, and points out thatthe role of communications media among citizens is important in the politics ofa democratic society. Arguing that common people may have an historic windowof opportunity to have influence over the use of communications technologies,Rheingold asserts that actions of today will determine the nature and controlof communications technology in the future.
At a fundamental level, Rheingold suggests that what is really neededtoday is "a citizens' vision of the way technologies such as the net shouldgrow, (for in its absence), the future will be shaped by large commercial andpolitical power holders" (Ibid: 6) who are becoming fewer and more powerful aseach day goes by. For Rheingold, nothing less than mass reality is at stake."Access to influence other peoples' thoughts and perceptions is what is atstake. [And] Who has it and who doesn't have it is intimately connected topolitical power" (Ibid: 278).
Television, telegraphs, radios and computer networks are potent political toolsbecause their function is not to manufacture or transport physical goods but toinfluence human beliefs and perceptions. As electronic entertainment hasbecome increasingly "realistic" it has been used as an increasingly powerfulpropaganda device. (Ibid: 297)
Rheingold's main point here is that either common people take control of thecommunication systems that can connect them to each other and the world, orthese will continue to be used to deceive and control them.
As a society we release very powerful forces when new technologies aredeveloped and adopted. Most often we only learn about their broaderconsequences when we have become dependent on the technology itself andtherefore have little chance for change. However, considering the importanceof technology to the transformations and traumas of this century alone, we knowsurprisingly little about it. Schoenhoff (1993: 9) states this well: "Thetruth is that we still do not really understand technology in any depth - whatimpels its development or how it transforms our environments and ourconsciousness." Our research into GIS is dedicated to offering its insights tohelp remedy this lack of understanding.
Anthropology offers a good general theoretical foundation for theexploration of technology in general. We are focused on a specific technologythat has basically not been explored by anthropologists, but we feel that thisgeneral theoretical foundation will be as useful for GIS as it is fortelevision, telephones and information technology generally.
To summarize our ultimate purpose in adopting this theoretical position,we quote Escobar, speaking again about the larger cultural background oftechnology's creation.
"This background must be made explicit as a steptowards reorienting the dominant tradition. Some see the ultimate purpose ofthis reorientation as contributing to the democratization of science andtechnology and to the development of technologies and technoliterate practicesbetter suited to human use and human purposes than the present ones" (Escobar,1994: 214).
|<--||1. INTRODUCTION||CONTENTS||3. METHODOLOGY||-->|