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GIS Workshop: Building participatory GIS skills through community partnership

I'm facilitating a new take on an existing course at Ball State University this semester, developed with support from BSU's Emerging Media Initiative at the Center for Media Design.  GEOG448/548 is now 'GIS Workshop', drawing on my previous experience supporting a similar course in the Dept. of Geography at the University of Washington, lead by Prof. Sarah Elwood (see also Elwood 2009).  In GIS Workshop, we'll have 20 students partner on around eight community-based projects to help the students learn collaborative- and participatory-research skills, while supporting community organizations to further their mission using spatial technologies.

I'm excited about our potential community partners this semester: United Way of Delaware County, Open Door and Ball Memorial Hospital, the Indiana 500 Trail Project, and the City of Muncie Animal Shelter.  Students will have the opportunity to work on projects that focus on the social (justice) geographies of Muncie, Indiana:
  • mapping pedestrian-scale livability,
  • documenting the availability of cultural sites,
  • mapping the landscape of childcare service provision,
  • mapping poverty and available social services,
  • documenting predatory lending establishments,
  • analyzing the locations of 'tax-prep' services,
  • mapping the locations of 'medically under-served areas',
  • analyzing the landscape of primary care service provision, and
  • documenting the work of city-wide animal control.
Course Description:
Geographic information technologies continue to drive the representation and management of complex as well as everyday spatial information.  As a result, increasing numbers of for-profit and non-profit organizations have recognized the need to transform their information into a spatial format.  The demand for collaborative and participatory skills in the use of these mapping tools has, of course, been furthered by this general trend.  Therefore, the goal for this course is that each student will become an independent and effective GIS user while developing their collaborative skills in the use of GIS for spatial analysis and representation.  To meet this goal, this course follows a participatory workshop model, drawing on Elwood (2009) -- an intensive, hands-on experience in which student teams use GIS in collaboration with community partners.  These partnerships will involve students in a full range of collaborative GIS: working with team members and project partners to identify project goals, acquiring and preparing spatial data for GIS analyses, communicating with clients to assess progress, managing spatial data, and producing necessary maps and analyses.  The lecture, reading, and seminar discussion components of the course will focus on topics important to collaborative development -- to be prepared to implement, manage, and apply in a variety of research and applications areas, and in multiple geographical and institutional contexts.

Learning Objectives:
This course will expose students to the technical, critical, and collaborative skills necessary to analyze the consequences of human/environment interactions within a geographic information system.  The workshop model will allow students to develop and apply these skills in partnership with community organizations.  This course is designed to help students:
  • Extend their skills in digital data preparation and handling in a GIS environment, 
  • Gain experience across the full range of steps and tasks that comprise GIS applications, 
  • Practice skills that will help them navigate the ‘human’ side of successful GIS applications, 
  • Become an independent and ethical GIS practitioner who is prepared to work in a diversity of institutional, geographical, and political contexts, and 
  • Produce an applied GIS project from start to finish that may be used to showcase their GIS
  • abilities to future employers or academic programs.
For those enrolled in GEOG548, the course will additionally help graduate students:
  • Further their experience leading discussion on contemporary topics in the GIS & Society tradition, and 
  • Practice writing the GIS methods section of their thesis project.
Selected Readings:
  • Chrisman, Nicholas R. 1999. What does 'GIS' mean? Transactions in GIS 3 (2):175-186. 
  • Crampton, Jeremy W. 1995. The Ethics of GIS. Cartography and Geographic Information Systems 22 (1): 84-89. 
  • Crampton, Jeremy W. 2009. Cartography: maps 2.0. Progress in Human Geography 33 (1):91-100. 
  • Elwood, Sarah A. 2009. Integrating participatory action research and GIS education: Negotiating methodologies, politics and technologies. Journal of  Geography in Higher Education 33 (1):51-65. 
  • Esnard, Ann-Margaret. 1998. Cities, GIS, and Ethics. Journal of  Urban Technology 5 (3):33-45.
  • Goodchild, Michael F. 2007. Citizens as sensors: the world of volunteered geography. GeoJournal 69:211-221. 
  • Haklay, Mordechai, Alex Singleton, and Chris Parker. 2008. Web Mapping 2.0: The Neogeography of the GeoWeb. Geography Compass 2 (6):2011-2039. 
  • Henry-Nickie, Makada, Haydar Kurban, Rodney D. Green, and Janet A. Phoenix. 2008. Leveling the playing field: Enabling community-based organizations to utilize geographic information systems for effective advocacy. URISA Journal 20 (2):33-41. 
  • Knigge, LaDona, and Meghan Cope. 2006. Grounded visualization: integrating the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data through grounded theory and visualization. Environment and Planning A 38:2021-2037. 
  • Merrick, Meg. 2003. Reflections on PPGIS: A view from the trenches. URISA Journal 15 (APA II): 33-39. 
  • O'Sullivan, David. 2006. Geographical information science: critical GIS. Progress in Human Geography 30 (6):783-791. 
  • Parker, Brenda. 2006. Constructing Community Through Maps?  Power and Praxis in Community Mapping. The Professional Geographer 58 (4):470-484. 
  • Rattray, Nicholas. 2006. A user-centered model for community-based web-GIS. URISA Journal 18 (2):25-34. 
  • Schlossberg, Marc, and Darren Wyss. 2007. Teaching by doing: PPGIS and classroom-based service learning. URISA Journal 19 (1):13-22. 
  • Weiner, Daniel, and Trevor M. Harris. 2003. Community-integrated GIS for Land Reform in South Africa. URISA Journal 15 (APA II):61-73. 
  • Williams, Craig, and Christine E. Dunn. 2003. GIS in Participatory Research: Assessing the Impact of Landmines on Communities in North-west Cambodia. Transactions in GIS 7 (3):393-410. 
  • Wilson, Matthew W. 2009. Towards a genealogy of qualitative GIS. In Qualitative GIS: A Mixed Methods Approach, edited by M. Cope and S. A. Elwood. London: Sage. p. 156-170. 
  • Wilson, Matthew W., Barbara S. Poore, Francis Harvey, Mei-Po Kwan, David O'Sullivan, Marianna Pavlovskaya, Nadine Schuurman, and Eric Sheppard. 2009. Theory, Practice, and History in Critical GIS: Reports on an AAG Panel Session. Cartographica 44 (1):5-16. 
  • Wong, Sidney, and Yang Liang Chua. 2001/2004. Data Intermediation and Beyond: Issues for Web- Based PPGIS. Cartographica 38 (3/4):63-80.


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