Snap, pan, zoom, click, grab, and the embodied archive of geographic information systems

Nicholson, Philip John (2018) Snap, pan, zoom, click, grab, and the embodied archive of geographic information systems. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The aim of this thesis is to critically interrogate the question of ‘what is’ Geographical Information Systems (GIS) from an arts and humanities perspective, and to contribute to the emergence of what scholars have called a ‘third stage’, or ‘creative’ GIS. A significant element of this thesis is a practice-based research component that allowed for unpredictable avenues to emerge as the research unfolded, and the cultivation of an experimental approach that ‘tinkered’ with objects of inquiry regardless of preconceived outcomes. I begin with a critical assessment of the conceptual heritage of GIS, and related debates that situate GIS in the context of digital technologies and objects, structuralist, humanist and post-humanist geographic literatures on practice, and creativity as a productive geographic practice, before offering the notion of the ‘archive’ as a productive means of framing and interrogating GIS. In order to understand the doing of GIS, field studies were conducted to investigate what it means to learn and become immersed in GIS. I deployed more established social science methods at several sites, such as interviewing and participant observation, supplemented with auto-ethnographic accounts. From here, I sought to investigate how my own creative practice brought something new to the study of GIS, working through an abundance of materials, insights, and feelings amassed over the course of the PhD. Several artworks were created to tease-out, distil, and probe the aesthetic qualities of GIS that had become known to me throughout the PhD. This was a matter of ‘interfacing’, between GIS as broad discipline and my creative and aesthetic sensibilities and determining how my singular approach could recast our understanding of what GIS indeed is.

This thesis renders GIS not only as a tool, as a means of producing geographic knowledge according ontologies past and present, but as a set of practices that the user takes part in, and asserts his or her agency, but also must surrender themselves (at least in part) to the agency manifest through GIS as a historically, socially, and technologically produced mechanism. The practices involved in GIS are not just productive to particular ends, such as map making. The emotional dispositions, frustrations, anxieties, affective atmospheres of GIS practice produce a material and embodied residue that must be taken into consideration when we consider what GIS is. The thesis thus concludes with a proposal for a curated exhibition to ‘open up’ the dissemination of the thesis beyond the page and provide some sense of the what of GIS via other mediums. This curated installation offers a moment of closure for the project, as a culmination, a coming together of many of the materials built up and collected during the project.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: GIS, creative GIS, creative geovisualisation, critical GIS, art/science, creative practice, human geography, geography, third wave GIS.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Funder's Name: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Dixon, Professor Deborah and Donald, Dr. Minty
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Dr Philip J Nicholson
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30609
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2018 09:52
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2018 14:55

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