GIS as an Urban Planning Tool

By Shannon Jackson.

Published by The Technology Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Geographic Information Systems is a tool now used to broker nearly every aspect of the urban planning process. This suggests traditional cartography will soon be fully displaced with digital technology, and that the urban planning process will be permanently changed. Geographers have generated debate and discussion about the ramifications of digitization to traditional relationships to time, space, and discursive or face-to-face public spheres. There has been limited attention, however, to the ways in which the actual uses of GIS both generate new expectations about such relationships and reinforce particular models of embodiment. Fundamental to the impact of GIS on questions and issues of embodiment is the role of situated knowledge in shaping urban spatial development. This paper draws on ethnographic data gathered over the course of two years amongst a variety of professionals and neighborhood activists engaged in urban planning in Kansas City. Key questions were, how does the use of GIS change the urban planning process, and what kinds of expectations and perceptions of embodied knowledge emerge out of the use of this new tool? The data demonstrate that the use of GIS reinforces a particular model of the body premised on a certain suspicion of situated knowledge, and an accompanying mistrust of perspectives not brokered by technology.

Keywords: Digital Technology, Situated Knowledge, Urban Planning

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 2, Issue 7, pp.107-116. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.541MB).

Dr. Shannon Jackson

Assistant Professor, Sociology, University of Missouri, Kansas City, USA

For the past ten years, my work has focused on ethnographic research amongst Cape Coloureds in South Africa. This culminated in a Dissertation from the University of Chicago titled "The South African Public Sphere and the Politics of Colpoured Identity." Portions of this research are published in Critical Arts, Social Dynamics, Anthropology and Humanism, and an edited volume titled Limits to LIberation After Apartheid. Since most of this work was situated in Cape Town, I gained further interest in the relationship between race, gender, urban planning and Modernist models of space in Cape Town. This resulted in an article for Africa Today. I am now adding the use of digital technology to analyses of urban planning and its impact on conceptions of space and the body. This has recently been investigated in the U.S. around the dissemination and application of Geographic Information Systems to all aspects of the urban planning process.


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