EthicalGEO Fellows Report Results

The American Geographical Society is proud to announce the results of the inaugural class of EthicalGEO Fellows. Detailed below are summaries of the projects each Fellow completed after a year of research and fieldwork, made possible with support from Omidyar Network.

Mr. Greg Babinski, Marketing and Business Development Manager for the King County GIS Center, developed a set of guidelines for public agencies using GIS for equity and social justice. Many public agencies have begun to apply an equity and social justice (ESJ) lens to the development of public policies and the allocation of financial resources for projects and programs. This document represents a conceptual approach for the effective use of geographic information science and technology to support ESJ programs. Mr. Babinski provides a foundational background for the problem, proposes a conceptual GIS for ESJ lifecycle, and then outlines best GIS for ESJ practices for data management, data sources, geospatial analysis, cartographic design, general data visualization, and the use of interactive GIS-based dashboards.

Mr. William Perry Evans, a manager with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) in Tanzania, sought to answer one primary question—how can we make land rights accessible to the urban poor in Tanzania, with an eye to creating a model for the rest of the developing world? His team’s answer, as you will read in the report, is community cadastres.

This interactive map shows a comparative analysis between cadastral data obtained using an inexpensive u-bloxSED-F9P GNSS receiver ($200), and a more expensive, SOUTH S86 RTK GNSS Surveying System ($7000) used by a professional surveying company. The visualization shows clearly how these 20 plots practically overlap – the more scientifically robust evidence comes from using Precise Point Positioning, where Mr. Evans’ team found extremely high levels of position accuracy (under 5 centimeters).

Dr. Alfredo Giron-Nava, André Hoffmann Fellow at the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, created an interactive map highlighting the prevalence of poverty in fishing communities across the globe, and detailed his findings in a summary report and a forthcoming publication.

Ms. Erica Hagen, Director of Map Kibera Trust and GroundTruth Initiative, developed a framework and launched an international conversation guiding the act of mapping in vulnerable communities. The GeoEthics in Vulnerability Principles are part of a living document, currently open for comments.

Ms. Hagen on her project: “Today’s world of geospatial technology and data is evolving quickly. However, the people who stand to benefit most from improving technologies, including mapping, are instead increasingly left out of key conversations, opportunities, and developments that center around their lives and their data. This report seeks to outline some ways in which ethics should inform our mapping with and for vulnerable communities. I first summarize existing frameworks (such as responsible data) which are relevant to ethical mapping, then look at where geo-data may need its own framing. I propose both a draft framework for ethical mapping with vulnerable populations and areas for further discussion. This is a draft and therefore needs YOUR feedback! Please help by sending comments to info@ethicalgeo.org.”

Dr. David Padgett, Associate Professor of Geography and Director of the Geographic Information Sciences Laboratory at Tennessee State University, explored the democratization of geospatial technology and produced a report and a participatory mapping tutorial for communities fighting for environmental justice.

Fr. Michael Rozier, Assistant Professor of Health Management and Policy at Saint Louis University, conducted a national survey to answer “how is my location my identity?” Fr. Rozier discusses the results of his GeoLocation and Self-Identity survey, which spanned themes of technology, privacy, data access, and personal identity in two video presentations.

In this first video, Fr. Rozier discusses the demographics of his survey sample, methodology, and how our location–where we are–influences our identity–who we are.

In part two of his results, Fr. Rozier discusses the use of health-related geotechnology, opinions of privacy, and beliefs of access to data among survey respondents.

Dr. Dara Seidl, Associate Professor of GIS at Colorado Mountain College, created the Geoprivacy Video Series, a resource for educators teaching ethical issues related to location data collection. The series of eight videos covers topics from the false identification of crime suspects using GPS data to the use of location tracking to vet job applicants. Each video link contains a short film and a PDF of activities, articles, and discussion points that high school and college instructors can use to enrich the privacy conversation in their classrooms.

The EthicalGEO Initiative launched in the summer of 2019 and has supported seven Fellows conducting research on the ethical implications of geospatial data and tools. In addition to our fellowships, EthicalGEO curates a Knowledge Repository of resources for scholars at the intersection of ethics and geospatial sciences, supports the development of the Locus Charter advancing best practices for location data use internationally, and hosts the Location Tech Task Force, a series of events featuring experts examining the ethical use of geospatial technology and location tracking during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 

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