Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Archeology of Exclusion: Counter-Mapping Sites of Exclusion and Oppression in the Administrative State Using Gis

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Archeology of Exclusion: Counter-Mapping Sites of Exclusion and Oppression in the Administrative State Using Gis

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In public administration, research on geographic information systems (GIS)--i.e., "computer hardware, software, and geographic data designed to efficiently capture, store, update, manipulate, analyze, model, and display all forms of geographically references information" (Vonk, Geertman, & Schot, 2007, p. 745)--has been limited to studies about: 1) The diffusion, use, and implementation of GIS in the public sector (Brown & Brudney, 1998; Brown, O'Toole, & Brudney, 1998; Nedovic-Budic & Godschalk, 1996; O'Looney, 2000; Ventura, 1995; Vonk et al., 2007); 2) The role of GIS in the field's curricula (Obermeyer, Ramasubramanian, & Warnecke, 2016); And 3) public participation geographic information systems (PPGIS) (Ganapati, 2011; Haque, 2001). In terms of (1) public sector applications, Haque (2001) and Obermeyer et al. (2016) note that GIS is used for planning and community development, the delivery of daily and emergency services, infrastructure management, monitoring the spread of infectious diseases, transportation planning and modeling, assisting in redrawing voting and school districts, and much more. As a matter of (2) teaching, Obermeyer et al. (2016) find that while there is a demand for graduates competent in GIS, public administration programs have not met this need. Finally, concerning (3) PPGIS, given that the goal of PPGIS is to empower communities and, effectively, increase democracy (Ganapati, 2011; Sieber, 2006), it is readily compatible with many of the American Society for Public Administration's (ASPA) and the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration's (NAASPA) core values. This is all to say that the future of GIS scholarship in public administration is full of promise and, as the field's GIS archive matures, it will probably be grounded in these three topics.

However, missing from public administration's GIS research agenda is a critical look at GIS. Like any other tool of public policy (Salamon, 2002), geographic information systems do not exist in a-political, or neutral, vacuums. Instead, GIS is a tool that, like others, can be manipulated. Although the topic is practically absent from the field's GIS archive, critical GIS has a rich genealogy in the field of geography (see O'Sullivan, 2006; Schuurman, 2006; Sheppard, 2005). For the purposes of this discussion, critical GIS is, as Sheppard (2005) understands it, a research program that rose to challenge GIS' positivism, inaccessibility, and failure to accommodate marginalized voices (see Schuurman, 2006, p. 727). Within this research program there are what Peluso (1995) calls counter-maps, i.e., alternative maps that challenge the status quo. While PPGIS--which is already part of public administration's research agenda--and critical GIS share raisons d'etre, the introduction of critical GIS to public administration opens doors to new areas of inquiry beyond issues of public participation, such as social theory, equity, justice, and philosophy vis-a-vis GIS.

As public administration continues to explore geographic information systems as both a tool of public policy and a topic of interest, the field needs to take critical GIS seriously. If, as Frederickson (2005) argues, in carrying out laws and policies, public servants face "important struggles with fairness, justice, and equality" (p. 32), then it behooves administrators to understand the power dynamics that foment exclusion and undermine democratic values in the administrative state; a task that critical GIS is well-suited for. To effectively fulfill their duty, public administrators need to embrace their role as de facto arbiters of conflict and champions of democracy (Nabatchi, Goerdel, & Peffer, 2011). Herein, I argue that critical GIS can help public administration scholars and practitioners engage counter-narratives through counter-maps that portray sites of exclusion, which has significant implications for a socially just administrative state emboldened by a democratic ethos. …

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