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Mapping whose reality? Geographic information systems (GIS) and “wild science”

[journal article]

Duncan, Sally L.

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Abstract In taking the landscape-scale view increasingly demanded of natural resource management, scientific assessments make considerable use of geographic information systems (GIS) maps to convey the research findings they develop. Public interaction with scientists over natural resource management issues is therefore frequently mediated by such maps, which can directly influence how the landscape is viewed, and how science findings are communicated and understood. Analysis of the Coastal Landscape Analysis and Modeling Study (CLAMS) project in western Oregon reveals that GIS maps play a significant role in how we frame and address natural resource management issues. They can support the role of privileged knowledge as held by the map makers, typically scientists, and may reinforce it by the de facto “map tyranny” that gives primacy to scientific worldviews. But they can also enable broader kinds of inquiry through multiple frames of reference, enhancing story-making opportunities for stakeholders. Which of these trajectories is followed is affected by resource availability and new perceptions of responsibility, each of which reflects social power structures. The CLAMS case study suggests that map user/non-scientists appear less likely to be victims of “map tyranny” the more familiar they are with the technology. Accordingly, they become more likely to push for usable results from it, and more confident about engaging their own knowledge with that of the map maker/scientists.
Document language English
Publication Year 2006
Page/Pages p. 411-434
Journal Public Understanding of Science, 15 (2006) 4
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)