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Geographic Information System (GIS) Benefits and Constraints

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Benefits and Constraints of Using Geographic Information System (GIS)

1. Introduction

1.1 Research Background

This is no more evident than in the proliferation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) across a variety of disciplines, with the common goal of capturing, storing, analysing and visualizing spatial information. GIS in practice, by virtue of its technical complexity and cost, has traditionally been limited to the operations of Governments and commercial organisations (Craig et al., 2002). Despite these barriers non-profit organisations and community groups are increasingly looking to adopt GIS on the premise that it will be able to positively transform their operations through better decision making and influencing public policy through greater analysis and the presentation of professional visualisations (Sieber, 2000b, Sieber, 2000a). Given this burgeoning interest, there has been a concerted effort by GIS and Society (GISoc) research groups to develop and espouse concepts such as Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) which provides a unique approach to make GIS and spatial data available to non-traditional users allowing them to integrate local knowledge and engage in decision making (Sieber, 2006).

1.2 Research Objectives

The focus of this research project is to investigate the benefits and constraints for the application of a Geographic Information System (GIS) within a community based project. Specifically the research considers a reframing of PPGIS to help better guide the processes, resources and characteristics required to implement a community based GIS. The following questions will guide the research and development of the community-based GIS:

  1. Do contemporary PPGIS pragmatic approaches address the original ontological debates of GIS and Society?
  2. Can psychogeographic principles help better guide the requirements for a community based GIS?
  3. What spatial data sets are available and usable for community groups within Melbourne, Victoria?
  4. Do available datasets satisfy the requirements of community groups?
  5. Can community knowledge be effectively integrated with traditional spatial data sources?

1.3 Research Rationale

As people become more aware of local, regional and global issues through the mainstream media and the Internet they, as a result, expect to be better informed by Governments and organisations and allowed to contribute to decisions that shape their own lives and the society in which they live. If those issues comprise spatial knowledge, then a GIS is a natural option for facilitating discussions and conveying local knowledge (Carver, 2003). Despite this opportunity to empower communities many GIS practices (including PPGIS) and available spatial data often do not adequately represent community needs and concerns (Elwood, 2006). This research thus aims to explore and develop a framework for which current GIS and related technologies can be successfully reconstructed to allow communities to express their own knowledge about place and spatial relations through visualizations and narratives. Specifically, the proposed research has been designed to assist the Blackburn Lake Sanctuary (BLS) Advisory Committee to implement a GIS which will be enable them to store and map the location of various vegetation and salient features within the BLS in Melbourne, Victoria. By integrating publicly available data sets with community knowledge it is hoped that it will further legitimise the activities of the BLS Advisory Committee while not compromising their goal of contributing to local government policy and increasing the effectiveness of their activities.

1.4 Research Methodology

Contained here is an outline of the subsequent chapters and research methodology. The research will be organised into three major chapters - literature review; case study; and discussion and conclusions.

Chapter Two - Literature review - examines the relevant literature regarding GIS and Society, PPGIS and psychogeography providing an overview of the historical background and ontological framework of these research paradigms. An examination of the principles of psychogeography and the research design of previous PPGIS studies will be completed, providing a comparative study of their different methodologies and methods. These comparisons will assist in developing a theoretical framework for a community-based GIS which will guide the case study to follow.

Chapter Three - Case study - introduces the Blackburn Lake Sanctuary case study and attempts to implement the methods established within the theoretical framework introduced in chapter two. An exploratory case study has been employed because it is a valuable method for investigating the nature and effects of implementing technology within a complex milieu (Sieber, 2000b). In order to increase the rigour and validity of the case study observations, open-ended interviews and questionnaires will be conducted.

Chapter Four - Discussion and conclusions - reviews the research objectives in relation to the major research findings as well as the limitations of the methods and theories employed. Pattern matching techniques will be employed to compare the observed and verified information with the framework developed through the research project. If the observed and predicted information correspond then the research methodology maybe strongly validated (Sarantakos, 1998). This chapter also addresses the limitations of the research and future research opportunities.

1.5 Conclusion

This chapter has established the objectives and rationale for conducting research into developing a community-based GIS. A research methodology has also been proposed to describe how the research statement and associated objectives will be achieved. The next chapter will review the relevant literature - including theoretical models and research methodologies used by previous researchers in the field of PPGIS and psychogeography.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

In the previous chapter, the objectives, rationale and methodology were presented to help guide the research into developing a community-based GIS. The research outlined in this thesis covers a number of interdisciplinary fields - all of which are continually evolving. These fields include public participation GIS (PPGIS), community mapping and psychogeography. This chapter begins by investigating the role of GIS in society including the motivation and foundation for PPGIS and the advantages and disadvantages of PPGIS praxis. The chapter also explores the topic of psychogeography and the reasons why its principles may help characterise and drive the successful development of a community GIS.

2.2 GIS and Society - a brief history

"Mountains dark with forests rose above the rooftops, the jagged black summits silhouetted against the evening light. Higher than them all, though, was the tip of the Schneeberg, glowing, translucent, throwing out fire and sparks, towering into the dying brightness of a sky across which the strangest of greyish-pink cloud formations were moving, while visible between them were the winter planets and crescent moon." (Sebald, 2002: 50)

Storytelling is an extremely powerful means for conveying an image of the world and in some way or another every story takes place somewhere and relates knowledge of geography and a sense of place (Cartwright, 2004, Erle et al., 2005, Cartwright et al., 2009). One way to represent geographic stories and our understanding of the spatial organisation of the physical environment and its relationship with humans is through a map. An attempt to bring together the science of geography with the art of map making has been the Geographic Information System (GIS) - which is a computer system for capturing, storing, querying, analysing and displaying geographically referenced data (Chang, 2008). What differentiates a GIS from other databases and computer systems is its ability to combine large amounts of spatial data from diverse sources, group the data into layers or categories, analyse the data for patterns or relationships and produce improved visualizations (Sieber, 2000a, Sieber, 2000b). For these reasons GIS technology has become an important tool for use by many levels of Government, Universities and organisations involved in activities ranging from conservation, advertising and marketing, health, crime, land-use planning and social services - or any activity containing a spatial component (Sieber, 2006).

However it is only recently that GIS use has expanded to non-traditional users such as non-profit organisations and community groups. This accessibility has been the result of decreased costs in hardware, software and improved user interfaces which means the user no longer has to learn specialised command languages (Craig et al., 2002). The attraction to the utility of GIS, by non-traditional users, is much the same as traditional users in that it can assist in new ways of understanding a problem, but it may also help in influencing public policy through more sophisticated analysis and the presentation of professional looking images (Sieber, 2000b).

Despite this perceived ease-of-use and increasing ubiquity, the GIS has been criticised by some circles as being an elitist technology which merely enhances existing power structures (Carver, 2003). This critique is heavily influenced by postmodernist principles, which place an increasing emphasis on the contributions of wider society and recognises that knowledge and values are constructed through a multiplicity of social and cultural forces. These arguments first surfaced within the paradigm of critical cartography which exposed the inherent subjectivity in, and rhetorical content of maps, thus implying that maps are as much a reflection of (or metaphor for) the culture that produces them, as they are an abstraction of the physical environment (MacEachren, 1995). These examinations have also been employed within social and critical GIS debates which challenge the use of GIS in decision making as being objective and neutral. Instead it has been maintained that GIS utility is often confined to 'experts' whom produce privileged knowledge given their unique access to data, technology, resources and position to structure the inquiry and design the output (Duncan and Lach, 2006). This view of GIS as a return to the principles of technocratic positivism may be construed as anti-democratic because decisions reliant on a GIS may exclude diverse forms of spatial data, such as community knowledge, in favour of ordered Government data conceptualised into points, lines and areas (Crampton and Krygier, 2006). Many academics, such as Pickles (1995), believe that the increased popularity of GIS within the geography discipline has meant that the availability and access to geographic data has become more influential than knowledge or experience of a unique environment or subject (Craig et al., 2002).

Concerns regarding the hegemonic and subjective role of GIS lead to a number of workshops in the mid-nineties on 'GIS and Society' (GISoc) sponsored by the National Centre for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) (Craig et al., 2002). GISoc was focused on how the spread of the technology was affecting "the political, economic, legal and institutional structures of society; and how societal processes affect the form taken by the technology itself" (Carver, 2003: 65). GISoc research furthermore questioned whether current GIS practices and available spatial data adequately represented community needs and concerns and whether a new ontological framework was needed to help empower less privileged groups in society (Elwood, 2006). It was questioned whether it would be possible to develop a 'bottom-up' GIS which could successfully incorporate community participation and thus either displace or validate decisions made with 'top-down' GIS approaches, implemented in most Government and commercial GIS projects (Craig et al., 2002). From these reflections the notion of Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) was developed and defined as "a variety of approaches to make GIS and other spatial decision-making tools available and accessible to all those with a stake in official decisions." (Schroeder, 1996) In other words, the intention of PPGIS praxis was to incorporate local community perspectives into decision making, ideally leading to solutions which might otherwise not have been attained using traditional data sources and esoteric problem framing and analysis (Carver, 2003).

Even though PPGIS was initially seen as a reconstructed democratic GIS, there is still much polarized debate regarding whether GIS technology is empowering or marginalising. These opinions, however, can often be seen as a reactive and predisposed view of information technology (IT) in which individuals and groups must react to the technology as having a positive or negative social effect (Sieber, 2000a). The effectiveness and social and political implications of GIS use within communities, however is much more complex and is generally contingent on a set of unique local factors such as culture, policies, standards, people and technology (Duncan and Lach, 2006). While PPGIS applications are an extremely positive move to address the original GISoc concerns regarding the social, political and knowledge practices of GIS - contemporary PPGIS have seemingly introduced new contradictions concerning data access, representation and hegemony (Elwood, 2006). For instance, although much literature acknowledges the importance of bridging the gap between technology and community knowledge, many PPGIS applications continue to adopt a technocratic view of GIS and are often lacking extensive public interaction let alone the integration of community data (Sieber, 2006).

The next section of this thesis examines more closely the current contradictions in PPGIS applications, paying particular attention to the ambiguities in the use of the terms public and participation. The purpose in critiquing the underlying assumptions of these terms is to further an understanding of the original ontological meaning of PPGIS and how the varying use of the terms has affected the incorporation of community knowledge in PPGIS projects.

2.3 What does the Public and Participation in PPGIS really mean?

Any process or technology which enhances a communities access to information and provides the chance to participate in decision making should be seen as a step in the right direction; however the original ontological framing of GISoc has become misconstrued by some practices of PPGIS (Carver, 2003). The original concept and application of PPGIS has been reshaped and become more disparate over the years as a range of disciplines (such as urban planning and conservation), have applied different approaches and technologies to achieve a unique set of priorities and goals (Sieber, 2006). Furthermore the growing enthusiasm of Governments and commercial organisations for participatory planning has lead to a number of diverse initiatives which vary in terms of the inclusiveness of community knowledge and empowerment potential (Elwood, 2006). However, public participation is a complicated concept that can have multiple meanings which lead to numerous interpretations and societal expectations (Schlossberg and Shuford, 2005). An examination of the nature of public and participation practices in GIS applications is thus critical in developing a greater understanding of the ambiguities in the PPGIS process and how these may have diverged from the original vision of GISoc.

It is extremely important to identify whom the 'public' is when engaging a PPGIS project because it will ultimately determine who is included within the project and what types of outcomes and goals may be achievable (Schlossberg and Shuford, 2005). The Collins English Dictionary (1982) defines 'public' (adj) as a means "of relating to, or concerning the people as a whole" reflecting the intended meaning within PPGIS; and many applications do continue to be developed for a general public (Sieber, 2006). There is however a number of PPGIS projects who take a more ambiguous view of 'public' and often use it interchangeably with definitions which more loosely resemble a stakeholder. In other words many projects deem their public to be those who are affected by, bring knowledge or information to, and possess the power to influence a decision or program (Sieber, 2006). The public and their interests are often, however, very different from stakeholders and thus would heavily influence the problem framing and objectives of a GIS project (Wood, 2005).

Furthermore a public can be demarcated by a range of factors such as geographical, economic, social or political; and the composition of a public may change over time (Schlossberg and Shuford, 2005). Determining what constitutes the public has become especially complicated as technology has become more pervasive. For instance a web-based GIS may potentially be accessible by a wider portion of society however it raises questions around digital divides and geographic scale. Thus, is anyone who is able to access the application still deemed part of the public even though they maybe geographically distant to the issue and decision making? (Sieber, 2006) In general people local to an issue should be interested enough to get involved in a debate given their geographic proximity. It has been demonstrated however that as scale increases not only do people at regional, national and global levels become interested and involved in an issue but also a higher percentage of people at the local do as well because it has amplified into a wider discourse (Carver, 2003). Consequently Aitken (2002) suggests that instead of perceiving issues or decision making as being scale dependent and developing PPGIS projects for stakeholders which have their scale fixed, GIS projects should, alternatively, be directing their attention towards developing a GIS which would enable community issues and knowledge to jump scale from local to larger public discourses or vice versa (Aitken, 2002, Sieber, 2006). This is an important aspect because there is often a concern that local activities are dismissed as being part of community politics and are denied significant advancements by State and Federal Governments and thus the opportunity to emerge and engage individuals at all scales (Aitken, 2002). From this perspective a community-based GIS, where community is defined as "a group of individuals who are bound together by a common characteristic or a common intent and who enjoy a relatively high degree of mutual social interaction" (Jones et al., 2004: 105) offers the prospect of transcending the rigid scale conceptualised upon community politics and local activism enabling them to contest structures of power and dominance at the very scales they exist (Aitken, 2002, Gaile and Willmott, 2005).

Harris and Weiner (1998) acknowledged in their research on the power relations associated with GIS use - that participatory GIS practices have the potential to simultaneously empower and marginalise groups (Sieber, 2006). As a result it is imperative to understand the nature of the participatory process and who benefits and why (Craig et al., 2002). One such way to help conceptualise the levels of public participation is through a ladder metaphor. First conceived by Arnstein (1969), the basic premise of the 'participation ladder' is that each rung of the ladder represents a different level of participation - the bottom rung represents zero opportunity to participate while each rung above represents increased level of participation in the decision making and thus greater public empowerment (Carver, 2003). Wiedemann and Femers (1993) later produced an adaptation of the ladder which conceived of public participation as not only providing access to information but also suggesting that informing the public of decisions is another form of participation (Tulloch and Shapiro, 2003). This concept is significantly flawed as it firstly misrepresents the commonly understood meaning of the word participation in PPGIS which The Collins English Dictionary (1982) defines as "to take part, be or become involved, or share." Secondly the ladder metaphors do not acknowledge the potential for participation to change over a period of time (Schlossberg and Shuford, 2005). Thirdly, the participation models fail to include oppositional groups whom do not cooperate with public decision making but participate in the formation public policy through other influential methods such as protests (Sieber, 2006). The incorporation of the word participation in many GIS projects implies a method of consensus building which presupposes a level of top-down decision-making as well as a degree of homogenization between participants. Certain individuals however may be better able to participate or contribute to decision making than others. Consequently, disproportional levels of participation may effectively disempower individuals and adversely affect the desired outcomes of a community (Sieber, 2006). Consequently some scholars have insisted on applying 'participatory' for autonomous grassroots activities and employing 'participation' to describe those projects which are more top-down in their approach (Elwood, 2006). Again while this is a neat way to demarcate GIS projects which employ various degrees of top-down and bottom-up methods - these definitions fail to acknowledge that both methodologies are crucial to any successful GIS project and community decision making. In fact it is fervently maintained that in order to enable citizens to better identify and comprehend how the role of GIS and technical discourses are bound up in decision making and how decision making can be informed by GIS knowledge, communities must have access to spatial information developed by Governments and commercial organisations as well as contributing their own spatial knowledge (Brown, 1998).

Within this section it has been demonstrated that the attitudes and arguments that frame many PPGIS projects have succeeded in producing an illusion of influence and contribution by communities to decision making when actual control still resides with the traditional powers, such as Government. Instead of attempting to build an impossible consensus amongst a public with disparate tastes, values and experiences, a community-based GIS should concentrate on developing a community's ability to construct their own facts with the aid of available third party resources, from which their personal geographic stories may emerge and translate to various members of society (Wood, 2005). Another way forward could be to draw upon principles of Situational psychogeography which also attempts to combine subjective and objective modes of study by positing that one's self cannot be divorced from the urban environment and that one's psyche and knowledge of the city must transcend the individual if it is to be of any use in the collective rethinking of the city (Sadler, 1998, Wood, 2005). In the following section an examination of the origins of psychogeography will be conducted - clarifying how the principles behind this practice may help establish a framework for practice of GIS and Society and specifically the incorporation of local knowledge in GIS.

2.4 What exactly is Psychogeography?

During the 1950s a number of highly politicised groups emerged in opposition to the ideals of modernism; these groups promoted programs that would reform the practice of art and life by directly intervening in the human environment and bringing about a social revolution (Sadler, 1998). One such group were the Lettrist International who conceived of the notion of Unitary Urbanism, which would later be the developed into the praxis of Psychogeography. Unitary Urbanism was envisaged as "the theory of the combined use of arts and techniques for the integral construction of a milieu in dynamic relation with experiments in behaviour." (Knabb, 2006: 52) In other words, Unitary Urbanism was considered a social project whose vision was the unification of space and architecture with the social and individual body (Sadler, 1998).

In 1957 the Lettrist International and the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (IMIB) merged to form a new artistic-activist movement known as the Situationist International (SI). The SI was similarly critical of modernist principles which anteceded the rational mind at the expense of the imagination. These criticisms are most clearly evident in the SI's opposition to modern architecture and urban planning which they argued shaped people into rigid patterns of behaviour (Sadler, 1998). Furthermore they believed that increasing urbanism and capitalism had reduced life to mere production and consumption behaviour that ensured that "everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation." (Debord, 1964) In other words experienced space had been reduced into mere representations of spaces and in turn re-envisaged as capitalist spaces (McDonough, 2002). SI believed that members of society were increasingly experiencing life as spectators devoid of dialogue and without a sense of being involved or interacting with one another. Once this 'spectacle' of modernity and urbanism, represented through images, products and activities, and authorised by the state, had been unveiled, society would be able to rediscover the authenticity of city life underneath (Debord, 1964). By resisting the hegemony of the state the SI sought to radically transform urban spaces through different practices including the subversion of cartography. Specifically by directing the spectator's senses towards the contradictions in the abstractions and mediations of the state, the aim was to draw the spectator "into activity by provoking his capacities to revolutionize his own life" (Debord, 1957: 25).

Taking from the original methodology of Unitary Urbanism, psychogeography was proposed as a method of urban investigation which studies "the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals." (Debord, 1955) In other words, psychogeography was intended as a methodology to help make people aware of the ways in which the urban environment and everyday life is conditioned and controlled and encouraged the exposing of these concerns (Plant, 1992). Psychogeography in practice utilised a technique conceived as the Theory of the Dérive, in which individuals dérive (literally: 'drifting') through an environment letting themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain while still seeking to unmask the contradictions in the abstracted space (Plant, 1992). The dérive was an attempt to reappropriate the meaning of the city by removing the myths in the state's representations by having people walk and experience the landscape first hand, thus constructing through narratives a more concrete collective space (Mcdonough, 1994).

While the dérive offered a new way of surveying urban space, a new way of representing these spaces had yet to be found. The SI were not disillusioned with the idea of mapping practices, in fact they regarded mapping as an important component to aid in the changing and organisation of urban spaces (Pinder, 1996). They believed however, that the structures and imperatives utilised in mapping exposed the desires of those wishing to impose order upon the city. The SI ambition was thus to illustrate the strange logic and apparent disorder of cities by producing maps which demonstrated those intimacies of the city typically absent from a traditional street or topographic map (Sadler, 1998). Consequently the SI developed a concept called Détournement, which loosely translates as a diversion or rerouting of pre-existing aesthetic elements (Knabb, 1995). An example of this is where existing maps and aerial photographs were juxtaposed or rearranged to produce a new spatial meaning; an alternative experiential or existential truth (Ungar, 2005). Thus the SI were able to reconstruct the cartography of a city by reconciling conventional geographies, sociologies, and cartographies together with experienced spaces, producing a map which is "terrestrial, fragmented, subjective, temporal, and cultural" (Sadler, 1998: 82).

While Debord announced the disbandment of the SI in 1972, the traditions underpinning psychogeography continue to influence many works of literature, films, urban design and geographic practices (Ford, 2005). Wood (2005) draws attention to one contemporary psychogeography project - Jake Barton's 'City of Memory' - which combines psychogeographic principles with a GIS to build a collective urban memory through the participation of a number of people. In an interview with Wood, Jake Barton described his project as utilising 'top-down and 'bottom-up' resources to create an 'emergent' and 'curated' experience. Precisely by extending these terms to form the foundation of any GIS and Society project, Wood hypothesised that what would emerge was a GIS designed by a third-party or community-based intermediary (top-down); the public would formulate a specific framework that fits their unique goals (bottom-up); the bottom-up and top-down activities and goals are not independent of each other, but rather co-exist (curated); the outcome of the project has not been foreseen or influenced towards a specific outcome by any party, but rather emerges organically from the facts obtained and analysed (emergent). Thus resulting in a map and information which "has not been exactly made by the public but which without it has no content at all and deflates into a frame around nothing" (Wood, 2005: 13). Following on from this preliminary research by Wood a wider investigation of these terms will be conducted, laying the framework for a more appropriate community-based GIS as originally envisaged in GISoc debates.

2.5 Top-down

Top-down integration of GIS is usually undertaken by an outside individual or agency who provides the GIS model, data, analysis and representation (Talen, 2000). Often the major distinction between a top-down and bottom-up approach, in participatory projects, is determined by where the decision making lies and by the level of commitment required by the public. With a top-down approach a Government or organisation would typically provide the data and representations which would be used in deliberation with the public, who are required to make a short-term commitment. In contrast, a bottom-up approach would require the public to have ongoing access to GIS data and the resources to capture data, conduct analysis and produce representations (Talen, 2000). Governments and commercial planners will often implement a participatory GIS with top-down goals in order to better understand a neighbourhood dynamic, improve public sector management and enhance social service provision. This process theoretically serves the public by introducing policies and services based on a community's perception of the data, analysis and representations framed by Governments and planners (Sieber, 2006).

Top-down GIS models can also help circumvent deterrents such as cost, complexity and access to data which often impeded non-profit and community groups from implementing a GIS. The cost of hardware and GIS software have decreased dramatically over the years and there are now many open source GIS solutions available for free use; however it has been shown that any cost and resources required in the implementation, operation and maintenance of equipment, no matter the amount, will be a significant barrier for adoption, especially for underprivileged groups (Brodnig and Mayer-Schönberger, 2000, Leitner et al., 2002). Furthermore many individuals may lack knowledge about the availability and means of obtaining a GIS and spatial data (Elwood, 2007). Many of the GIS packages available are user-friendly for many operations, however the more functionality a group requires for their GIS, the greater the need for experts to help operate the software or at a minimum provide training; this constitutes another investment of time and money by the community group (Brodnig and Mayer-Schönberger, 2000, Leitner et al., 2002).

It has been noted that a large amount of spatial data available for use within GIS projects has been collected and manipulated by Governments or commercial institutions. Consequently some researchers also consider Government and commercially generated data which is made available to local residents for use within community GIS projects to be subsumed into the wider definition of top-down PPGIS (Sieber, 2006, Talen, 1999). In theory access to secondary data represents opportunities for community groups to acquire accurate and current spatial data in an appropriate format, increasing the efficiency in implementing a GIS and performing analysis (Sieber, 2000a). Secondary datasets however, are not always publicly available due to technical, organisational, political, legal and economic factors (Sieber, 2007). The availability of data is a concern for any GIS project and access may prove problematic depending on legislative rules on public data in different states and countries (Sieber, 2007). Even if data can be easily accessed, other concerns can arise regarding the appropriateness of the data and costs involved (Sieber, 2006). An attempt to provide improved data access to users has been the implementation of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs), which are generally setup and maintained by Governments and private institutions. Australia's SDI is known as the Australian Spatial Data Infrastructure [ASDI] and is managed by The Spatial Information Council of Australia and New Zealand [ANZLIC] (formerly known as the Australia New Zealand Land Information Council). The goal of a SDI is to enable users at all levels, both within and between countries, to locate, access and visualise spatial information within a centralised location. SDIs are typically implemented on the internet because it allows users to interact with the data transparently from a multitude of locations. SDIs are also cost effective and efficient because the spatial data is centrally managed, meaning there is no collection effort required and data standards are established allowing for greater portability and interoperability (Hall and Leahy, 2008).

Appropriate access to data sources - while important - can be futile if the data available is not appropriate for the intended application. This is often the case because Government and commercial strategies and priorities are often very different from those of community groups, leading to data which does not fully represent the perceptions and attributes which are meaningful to a community (Elwood, 2007). Furthermore for data to be appropriate, users must determine whether the available data is sufficiently complete and accurate; not all groups will demand high positional accuracy, but many will demand high degrees of attributional accuracy. Data access and appropriateness is also often prejudiced by its format and organisation. For instance, data may be classified or aggregated and thus potentially inappropriate (Sieber, 2007). Just as commonly, spatial data may not be at a scale or resolution which is meaningful or useable for local level applications characteristic of community group projects (Elwood, 2007).

Local governments constitute the most likely source of secondary data, however access to this data is heavily influenced by the local political climate. This means that if a non-profit or community group has alienated itself from the government or data suppliers this may preclude them from having access to the data (Sieber, 2007). Many Governments may also restrict the distribution of data because of concerns of privacy, security and liability because of inaccuracies (Sieber, 2007). There are continuing debates regarding whether the data that has been produced by Governments should be able to be accessed by the public domain or whether the data can be sold to buyers as a form of commodity. Again, costs for accessing public databases may preclude community groups from implementing a GIS, however it has been demonstrated in much research that often communities are able to obtain secondary data through informal channels and close interpersonal linkages (Sieber, 2007).

In summary, access to secondary data from Governments and private organisations made available through SDI and other channels, can constitute an effective method for populating a GIS and undertaking analysis which can effectively enhance a community's activities or perceptions of their neighbourhood or region. However not all secondary data is appropriate and many communities will need to obtain and collate their own spatial data to operate their GIS effectively.

That said, as Debord illuminated in his account of détournement, "any elements no matter where they are taken from, can serve in making new combinations"; meaning contemporary GIS secondary data can be manipulated or transformed by community groups to befit their needs

Next, by adding their own perceptions to the data, communities are able to reappropriate the GIS so that it successfully represents their perceptions (Elwood, 2007). Thus secondary data can be extremely useful in adding context to a situation, such as obtaining road lines or parcel data, which communities can use to plot dangerous intersections or problem areas. From this point we now turn and see how community knowledge can be integrated through a bottom-up approach.

2.6 Bottom-up

Much research has focused on the technical issues of data collection, accuracy, interoperability and access however the production and dissemination of data represents more than technical issues but also the social and cultural relations which exist within contemporary society. From this perspective GIS projects which use secondary spatial datasets exclusively can be problematic because the collection, categorisation and distribution of data conducted by Governments and private institutions are based on their own agendas and decisions; that is what is included and what is not, meaning that only a single geography can be produced (Pickles, 1995). Sceptics of top-down GIS also attribute its failure to approaches which inform communities rather than incorporate communities in GIS practice and decision making, thus marginalising local knowledge (Talen, 2000). Furthermore this method excludes communities from ever having ownership of a GIS, which many commentators consider to be essential to successful adoption and empowerment (Sieber, 2000a). Subsequently much research has focused on alternatives to top-down GIS approaches in which local knowledge and narratives are encapsulated and fundamental to the operations of a GIS (Talen, 1999). These bottom-up GIS approaches allow communities to characterise their environment and communicate community perspectives, rather than (re)convey Government generated 'objective' data (Talen, 2000). Local knowledge, which according to Mailhot (1993) is "the sum of the data and ideas acquired by a human group on its environment as a result of the group's use and occupation of a region over many generations" is fundamental to any project which studies the local environment because it can be such a rich source of information. Furthermore, this situated knowledge may help determine the meanings and values which local residents attribute to particular features, thus lending insight into how an area is conceptualised (Talen, 1999). GIS can play a central role in supporting the communication of local spatial knowledge because it provides an effective means of analysing and representing spatial complexity and can help discover relationships which may validate community needs and activities (Talen, 2000). Bottom-up GIS is not a method for replacing local meaning; rather it helps strengthen perceptions and depth of communication about community issues and preferences (Talen, 2000). By providing communities with the means to evaluate their area and articulate their perceptions spatially they are equipped with a much more complex vocabulary for which to discuss pubic issues (Talen, 2000).

Local knowledge, though, often exists in the form of stories and images and as such is qualitative data. GIS use would then seem problematic because a GIS is largely understood as a tool for the storage, analysis and representation of quantitative data. GIS does however have the capacity to integrate qualitative data and practices because it can handle other types of information such as photographs, videos and narratives (Kwan and Knigge, 2006). According to Kwan (2002: 274) the "representational possibilities of GIS can be used for enacting creative discursive tactics that disrupt the dualist understanding of geographical methods, where visual images (albeit generated and composed with digital technology), words and numbers are used together to compose contextualized cartographic narratives in geographical discourse." Thus the primary task in implementing a bottom-up GIS is to create ways in which community perceptions can be collected and translated into data which the GIS can store and represent (Talen, 2000).

The SI practice of dérive can be useful for the collection of local data because it is a purposeful method for scouting and retrieving information about an area (Coverley, 2006). In a dérive, one or more persons can delimit a spatial area and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the landscape enabling them to analyse the disregarded characteristics of an area (Debord, 1956). Using the act of walking and experiencing a space first hand, communities are able to reappropriate spaces and unmask the abstract spaces represented in many GIS datasets. Then, as Debord (1956) hypothesised "with the aid of old maps, aerial photographs and experimental dérives, one can draw up hitherto lacking maps of influences."

The observations and narratives of a community can be captured and integrated into a GIS through methods such as questionnaires, focus groups and mental maps. A mental map can be defined as the unique perceptual maps which exist in everyone's mind, reflecting our spatial perceptions and knowledge of local, regional and global geographies. For instance we often develop detailed maps of our local neighbourhood which we use to navigate and communicate routes of interest such as getting from home to work. Mental maps are not generally considered on a conscious level but are continually refined over time and we intuitively use these maps to make decisions everyday and through our lives (Maantay and Ziegler, 2006). As suggested by Lynch (2002) in his text 'the image of the city' there is a public image of any given city space which has been produced through many individual images. These images are unique and are necessary for any individual to function effectively within their environment, but for most people these images are not appropriately captured by maps produced by the State. While maps may contain some significant landmarks, they will often omit 'local landmarks' - those only visible in restricted localities and from certain approaches. Examples of local landmarks include trees, seats, store fronts and other urban details. These local landmarks are invaluable references, especially to local communities, as these referents are frequently used clues of identity and often become increasingly relied upon as the area becomes more and more familiar (Lynch, 2002). Additionally, networks of citizens or communities as everyday observers of a landscape have situated knowledge which can constitute a source of data that in many cases is much more detailed and current than any current satellite imagery is able to offer and has the potential to be a significant source of knowledge which would assist scientists and geographers to further their understanding of many social and environmental factors. Local observation and data may also reveal and clarify local life and activities which go unnoticed by the national mapping agencies or the media (Goodchild, 2007). Mental maps can be extremely valuable when used in the development of a bottom-up GIS because they can help determine important areas of the environment and a consensus as to what communities' priorities are and what a community considers important to preserve, improve or invest in. By compiling and drawing a composite community mental map it may help elucidate where resources should be directed and as well as developing a visual portrayal of a communities vision (Maantay and Ziegler, 2006).

2.7 Curated

As the previous two sections demonstrate, there are a number of competing goals between top-down and bottom-up GIS approaches. In this section an attempt to relate the curator (top-down) and community (bottom-up) to form a collective representation of the landscape will be expounded.

In the text 'Community participation and Geographic Information Systems' Leitner et al (2002) summarises six models for making GIS available to community organisations. These models include: Community-based (in-house) GIS; University-community partnerships; GIS facilities in Universities and public libraries; map rooms; Internet map severs; and neighbourhood GIS centres. Each of these models differs from one another along numerous dimensions including location, communication structures, and interaction, however one commonality that each of these models does have is the necessity for curatorial practices. Curators have traditionally been responsible for the acquisition, authorship and representation of objects to audiences within specialised spaces such as museums, libraries, art galleries and other cultural institutions. While this definition is still true in many respects, the curator's role has also shifted and expanded in response to environments where technology is more pervasive and greater interactions with audiences are required. As such Russo and Watkins (2004) suggest that curatorial practices have been reconsidered around the following key areas:

1. A curator must be able to facilitate community engagement in the production and display of interactive experiences

2. A curator must be able to act as agents of technology transfer in collaboration with new media technologists and most importantly

3. A curator must be able to employ a structured methodology for enabling the first two practices to be delivered.

Using this line of thinking the six GIS models can be explicated as methods in which curators establish contexts which can capture accurately the needs of user groups and allow them to provide their own contexts. In this sense each actor involved in the implementation of these models has in some way assumed the role of a curator through interpretation, selection and filtering of data and by creating chains of meaning through data association and juxtaposition (Paul, 2006, Scholz, 2006). Curatorial practices are also discernable in more abstract models such as the Internet map server which can be understood both literally and metaphorically as a form of 'software curation' - "a practice that is partially automated, dynamic, collaborative, and redistributed in terms of power relations and curatorial control." (Krysa, 2006: 10)

Even though the construction of situations was necessarily collective in its preparation and development the role of a curator was also acknowledged as being fundamental to the success of psychogeography and dérives by the Situationist International. The curator would be "responsible for coordinating the basic elements necessary for the construction of the décor and for working out certain interventions in the events." (Knabb, 1995: 43) It was also noted however, that the relationship between the curator and public was only a temporarily subordination rather than a permanent specialization (Knabb, 1995).

The role of the curator is also somewhat analogous to a 'GIS champion' which much existing PPGIS literature acknowledges as being key to any successful GIS implementation. The GIS champion plays a crucial role in the utility of GIS because they generally are best suited to successfully drive the implementation of the GIS and help align GIS practices with the internal goals of the community (Sieber, 2000a). The GIS champion will also help promote the technology through the group and continue to gather appropriate data and allow the GIS practices to mature and be adopted.

The organising assumptions behind a curated GIS lies in its ability to provide the means by which users can explore an environment, which integrates information from a multitude of sources, so that the user can view other peoples data, experiment and imagine possible solutions and formulate their own views (Carver, 2003). In order, however, to model a community-based GIS on this framework we have to acknowledge that the goal is not to introduce a GIS into a social structure or even for the social structure to utilise GIS as merely a tool but rather ensure that the GIS has been appropriated by the social structure (Wood, 2005). This is because creation of local data and providing access to State data does not directly guarantee or endow a community with the power to emancipate themselves from the decision making bureaucracies. By transforming the GIS practice and by inventing their own processes a community may be able to construct an otherwise unattainable knowledge (Sieber, 2000a).

In essence this means that the fundamental role of the curator in community-based GIS is to produce engaging community outcomes, while also protecting the interests of all participants, through the seamless integration of quantitative and qualitative data and methods (Klaebe et al., 2007). Situational psychogeography acknowledged this ability to combine subjective and objective modes of study by positing that ones self cannot be divorced from the urban environment and that local knowledge must transcend the individual if it is to be of any use in the collective rethinking of the city (Sadler, 1998). As such the Situationists developed the notion of détournement as a method of representing psychogeographies acknowledging that "the mutual interference of two worlds of feeling, or the bringing together of two independent expressions, supersedes the original elements and produces a synthetic organisation of greater efficacy." (Debord and Wolman, 2006: 15) So by employing mixed data types - quantitative and qualitative - a GIS will be strengthened, even in instances when the datasets are contradictory, because the community will then be able to gather a better understanding of the inherent inconsistencies and partiality in both data methods. In some instances both sets of data may in fact be accurate yet were produced from different perspectives (Knigge and Cope, 2006). Additionally, because mental maps are subjective and reflect a person's background, experiences and knowledge, everyone's mental maps will differ significantly meaning community data will be diverse and contain its own inaccuracies. A person's mental map will often not reflect geographic reality but rather our perception of the geography; for instance distances of length are something which may become distorted in our mental maps. This is not because people have a lack of skill in cognitively measuring distances, but distances are often dependent on our perception of the distance such as aesthetically pleasing, dark, safe, uphill, rough terrain, a number of factors (Maantay and Ziegler, 2006). By integrating and organising collections of mental maps and narratives into recognisable data as well as co-opting state data, curators will be able to help contextualise the cartographic knowledge of both the community and the State through the mediation of their relationship, hopefully increasing the authenticity of a community's activities (Knigge and Cope, 2006). In this sense, the Curator can act as a hub which a communities GIS can be built and related and eventually users will be able to explore their own ideas and reach their own conclusions or a consensus may emerge which can lead to effective decision making (Russo et al., 2008).

2.8 Emergent

In dialogue with Wood (2005) Jake Barton describes his 'City of Memory' mapping project as utilizing resources and citizen participation to generate an emergent effect or an outcome which has not been foreseen. The use of the adjective emergent within this context and the context of community mapping is extremely appropriate given that it implies an impartial and democratic quality - often absent from many PPGIS projects - and also according to The Collins English Dictionary (1982) meaning something that is "coming into being noticed" or an entity "recently independent" . The desire for an emergent outcome while not unique is often understated as a key objective of GIS and participatory mapping projects. Rather the majority of PPGIS literature posits that the goal for community groups starts and ends with empowerment. While there is no universal meaning of empowerment in PPGIS applications Carver (2003) defines it as "the process by which stakeholders identify and shape their lives and the society in which they live through access to knowledge, political processes and financial, social and natural resources." Participation in decision making and GIS use, however, does not always result in empowering a community. This is because the motives of various individuals, including traditional power holders, may undermine the process through unequal power relations or perverse tactics such as limiting access to information (Carver, 2003). Furthermore it has also been noted that groups contain numerous outcomes and goals and these goals will vary depending on a communities particular culture and personal ideologies (Sieber, 2006). Craig and Elwood (1998) noted that the goals of community based groups implementing GIS can often be classified into four distinct categories: administrative (e.g. locate members or activities), organisational (e.g. recruit members or obtain grants), tactical (e.g. search for suitable location) and strategic (e.g. evaluate success of activities). It should also be noted that there are many other groups whose goals are less tangible, sometimes competing and contradictory and cannot necessarily be easily measured (Sieber, 2006). It would also be too simplistic and problematic to acknowledge that each individual whom contributes to a community-based GIS has a homogenised set of values and beliefs. Positioning emergence as the objective of any community GIS project will ensure that the loftier goals of a community are not misconstrued in favour of technocratic driven outcomes. By utilising top-down and bottom-up approaches more actors are involved in the process and as such various narratives can be incorporated increasing the likelihood that an emergent outcome results (Wood, 2005). Emergent outcomes are desirable because they postulate that no one group influence the process of decision-making more than another. Instead emergent outcomes presuppose that a number of narratives and perspectives are captured enabling an outcome to emerge, not necessarily of consensus, but one which truthfully represents the spatial knowledge of the group. Debord (1957) highlights this important characteristic within the SI original conception of 'constructing situations' through the methods of unitary urbanism and psychogeography: "we have neither guaranteed recipes nor definitive results. We only propose an experimental research to be collectively led in a few directions that we are presently defining and toward others that have yet to be defined" (Knabb, 1995: 25)

These democratic outcomes are reliant and characterised by the mixed methods approach described in the previous chapter. By compelling a community to explore and query diverse datasets from multiple angles and to deliberate on any prominent themes, consistencies or discrepancies, it enables not only connections between space and community identity to be revealed, but also multiple versions of reality to emerge (Knigge and Cope, 2006). This methodology also implies an ongoing process and continual renegotiation and reflection. This approach in psychogeographic projects is paramount because research on the physical environment "entails bold hypotheses that must constantly be corrected in light of experience, by critique and self-critique." (Knabb, 1995: 7) By thinking about a community-based GIS as long term negotiated creations of 'process cartography' we can conceptualise the process of mapping as an ongoing "dialogue amongst residents" and "where the focus is on the dynamics by which terrain features are created and made influential." (Rundstrom, 1991, Offen, 2003) In this sense the process of mapping at the local level can allow the identity of a place to emerge.

Another central aim of the SI was to develop a " concrete construction of temporary settings of life and their transformation into a higher passionate nature." (Ford, 2005: 50) Similarly, an emergent outcome presupposes that the activities of a community should not be limited to a particular group or fixed to a particular scale but should in fact open the possibility of coming into being or noticed by society at various scales. In other words the outcomes associated with a community-based GIS should allow the community to mobilise (if required) and jump-scale from the local to global or regional to local - whatever the case may be (Aitken, 2002). Jumping of scales has been often addressed in relation to politics of scale and as a result a distinction was developed between spaces of dependence and spaces of engagement. Spaces of dependence refer to the social relations which people depend for the realisation of essential interests; spaces of engagement refers to the spaces for which people might utilise (or develop) networks of associations in order to further the social practices of the community (Cox, 1998, Haarstad and Floysand, 2007). Within spaces of engagement individuals or communities are able to re-articulate their narratives and knowledge, essentially jumping scale, and transcending the abstract boundaries enforced on particular groups (Haarstad and Floysand, 2007). It should be noted again that jumping scale does not presuppose a greater level empowerment, but maybe a potential effect of developing social relations and communicating knowledge and claims across scales (Haarstad and Floysand, 2007, Aitken, 2002). By capturing knowledge of a community and co-opted quantitative data of the state within a GIS, communities will be able to communicate spatial stories which elucidate and perhaps "promote a renegotiation of positions of power in politics." (Haarstad and Floysand, 2007: 305). In other words community groups having redefined their GIS may able to use their perceived greater legitimacy to impart an ideological framework - different from the dominant thought - to the public inspiring them to adopt the agenda of the community (Sieber, 2000a).

2.9 Conclusion

This chapter has explored the early development of PPGIS and provided an overview of the inherent ambiguities in contemporary PPGIS praxis. Additionally, a contextual account of psychogeography was presented, relating how some of its core principles maybe applied to the implementation of a community-based GIS. Specifically four key terms were identified, by way of an innovative mapping project called 'City of Memory', and explored in some detail to help better frame the examination of psychogeography and GIS. With these terms in mind the next chapter will apply the theoretical framework to the case study involving the BLS, hoping to verify or disprove many of the hypotheses contained within this chapter.

3. Case Study

3.1 Introduction

"He wondered what the map would look like of all the steps he had taken in his life and what word it would spell." (Auster, 1992: 129)

This chapter presents a case study of GIS implementation within a local community and applies the methodologies and theories expounded within Chapter Two. It is anticipated that the theory explored and developed within the previous chapter will provide a robust framework to not only guide the implementation of a GIS for the BLS Advisory Committee but also ensure any findings can be related to historic and future investigations.

3.2 Context

Blackburn Lake Sanctuary (BLS) is located within Blackburn a suburb of Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) almost 20kms east of the CBD. The BLS site is approximately 75 acres (30.4ha) of remanent and regenerated bushland and as such is a very important environmental asset to the Whitehorse City Council and its local residents. The significance of the Sanctuary however, extends beyond the local community and to the wider Melbourne metropolitan area given that it is one of the few remaining areas of natural urban bushland (Dempsey, 2009b, Dempsey and Rees, 2009). The Sanctuary contains a great level of biodiversity, including a large variety of indigenous and native vegetation as well as supporting an environmental niche - the Valley Heathy Forest - an Ecological Vegetation Class (EVC) identified by the Victorian Government. BLS is also home to a wide range of animals, insects, fish, reptiles and is one of the most important bird refuges in metropolitan Melbourne (Dempsey, 2009a). It is also an important historical site having had many owners and uses since the lake was formed in 1889 by the damming of Gardiner's Creek. One such owner was the Adult Deaf Society of Victoria whom in 1909 used the area as a place for people to live and work in, growing flowers and vegetables for selling at the Victoria Market (Dempsey and Rees, 2009).

The Sanctuary is currently owned by the City of Whitehorse, however it has appointed an Advisory Committee consisting of interested local resident volunteers to assist in the monitoring, enhancement and maintenance of the Sanctuary through working bees and other environmental activities (Council, 2009). Key activities of the Advisory Committee also include promoting the environmental and ecological values of the Sanctuary by providing relevant community and school education programs, preparing presentations and displays at the Visitor Centre and conducting monthly community activities. Through their daily experiences and in-depth understanding of the Sanctuary's contemporary and historic environment, the Advisory Committee are also able to liaise between the community and the council on issues relevant to the BLS (QUESTIONAIREE).

Much of the information regarding the BLS is confined to the experiences and knowledge of a number of local residents and Council members, however as time has come to pass much of this historical and local knowledge has vanished as individuals have moved or passed on. Furthermore from the Advisory Committee's experience increased Council staff turnover has contributed too many of the council records and knowledge regarding the Sanctuary disappearing or becoming untraceable (QUESTIONAIRE). Realising that much of this information is invaluable to the Sanctuary, community and Council the Advisory Committee approached RMIT University, by way of some common contacts, to provide advice on ways in which information could be collected, archived and used by the Advisory Committee to aid their activities. Specifically the Advisory Committee was hoping to develop a central depository containing high-quality information on plants, including their locations, which could subsequently be used to provide vital advice to Council and parks people, coordinate planning planting programs, weed management, seed collections and direct working bees. By having information on significant plant species located within BLS, it is hoped that the Advisory Committee could also assist in determining policies and planning applications as well as presenting cases to VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) (QUESTIONAIRE).

Given the spatial component (e.g. plant locations) involved in the activities of the Advisory Committee, a GIS was recommended as a tool which the Advisory Committee could incorporate into their activities and use to capture, store and represent their local spatial knowledge. Through a community-University collaboration it was envisaged that a GIS could


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