Bunch, Martin J. (2001) "GIS for Marginalization or Empowerment in Environmental Management: A South Indian Example" in The Indian Geographical Journal, 77(2):1-17. 


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) exist to transform data into knowledge and present this knowledge in various formats for the purpose of supporting decisions. In doing so, GIS are portrayed as knowledge-based systems that are free from bias. In fact, GIS is a socially constructed technology. The entire process of GIS production, from software development to data creation, analysis, visualization and interpretation of GIS output, is characterized by political, economic and social motivations. This paper presents a model of communication for GIS that illuminates the potential for GIS to both marginalise and empower vulnerable and excluded groups in environmental management and planning situations at each stage of the GIS production process. Inclusive and empowering uses of GIS in recent research in South India are discussed. In particular, GIS was central to a process of conceptual and environmental modelling intended to support rehabilitation and management of the Cooum River in Chennai. This process incorporated the perspectives of citizens and NGOs into expression of system relationships that were represented in a GIS-based Decision Support System and simulation model. The process led to identification of qualitatively different kinds of system interventions than were tried (and failed) in the past to rehabilitate this extremely stressed system. 

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Copyright © 2001-2004 Martin J. Bunch. All rights reserved. Revised: 03 April, 2004 by MJB