Toward an ethics of GIS: the human factor.
This post is in regard to our discussion last class period involving the ethical and political implications of GIS. Throughout history new technologies have always offered the potential to serve a range of interests and purposes. We may consider the outcome of these aims as good or bad, productive or destructive, community-serving or exploitative, etc. It is important to keep in mind, however, that usually these affects are not located within the technology itself, but actualized through its use. And the meaning and import of the use of technology is to be understood within a social and political field of power/knowledge.
The relatively recent rise of information technologies such as GIS has elevated our sense of apprehension because of how seemingly powerful they are. Indeed it is possible that these developments constitute a potential threat to our freedom and well-being that is greater than previous advances of technology (a question for further consideration). The degree to which this threat is actualized depends largely upon the people who develop and use geographical information systems. We have to take responsibility for it.
Do we need strong governmental regulations to keep people from harming each other with this new technology? Our answer to this question depends somewhat on our assumptions of human nature, and how human nature is sublimated through social norms, institutionalized law, and general codes of morality. Perhaps the community is a site that helps to strengthen a beneficial implementation of GIS. A good community may engender good people who will act responsibly and with care.
Do we need a tech savvy resistance to keep government from harming us with this new technology? This answer in turn depends on our estimation of our government. And that, quite frankly, depends upon one’s willingness to ask good questions.