Monday, January 27, 2014

Social Construction of GIS in China's Changing Urban Governance

Wen, L., & Ghose, R. (2010). Social Constructions of GIS in China's Changing Urban Governance: The Case of Shenzhen. Cartographica45(2), 89-102. 

In "Social Constructions of GIS in China's Changing Urban Governance: The Case of Shenzhen," the two authors attempt to fill a gap in scholarly GIS literature by researching a case study of the role GIS plays in non-Western nations. Wen and Ghose investigate the ways in which territorial conditions and interrelations between organizational and city boundaries influence governmental GIS development in the city of Shenzhen, China. This study, while looking at the role of GIS development in non-Western contexts, also reveals relationships between various Chinese bureaucracies and the development of "digital cities" engendered in response to the recent digital revolution. 

 Because of the Chinese government's centrally planned system, the Ministry of Construction is viewed as an important organization that plays a role in guiding local municipal governments to develop information technology (IT) infrastructure, including GIS. Municipal governments consider it an "honor" to work with the central authorities in developing and pursuing strategic goals, and the Figure above represents the relationship between the Ministry of Construction and the cities selected to participate in the Experimental Digital Urban Management City project. The project was promoted as a model of digital urban management for local municipalities. The Shenzhen portion of the project was funded by the city itself, estimated at a price around $16 million USD. 

Though central authorities are primarily responsible for setting the goals of the project, it is largely the responsibility of local city-level organizations to come together to make these goals a reality. The development of Shenzhen's spatial information platform was largely influence by city-level actors, giving the centrally-planned project legitimacy in the eyes of local leaders. However, one of the conclusions by the authors is "the State still holds a dominant and hegemonic position for geographic knowledge production in the process of developing GIS and governing the urban population." 

In large part, this study is a foray into the development of GIS and geographic data in non-Western contexts, and provides the opportunity for future GIS scholars to research the relationship between state and local power in geographic knowledge development. Understanding these relationships is important because it may compromise the quality and accuracy of geographic information that is officially collected and published. 

1 comment:

  1. Considering the significant corruption in China can the data used in these experiments be trusted? Especially considering that the government is centralized yet relies on regional data to create a GIS system.