The accelerated proliferation of geographic information systems (GIS), especially in the last decade, has greatly expanded the connotation of GIS technology from primarily a diverse suite of digital objects, representations, and devices that create or make use of geographical information to a mediated means with which we humans experience, explore, or make sense of the world. The research perspective of humanistic GIS is proposed to better encompass the expanded category of GIS technology as well as the opportunities and challenges that go with it.
Humanistic GIS offers a coherent and systematic framework that integrates existing fragmented humanism-related GIS studies and reorients the epistemological foundation by situating GIS in its mediation of human experience. This epistemological configuration not only categorizes GIS through its embodiment, hermeneutic, autonomous, and background relations with the involved human and place but it also provides an analytical structure for examining the intertwined implications of a particular instantiation of GIS.
This newly proposed humanistic perspective demonstrates a sincere quest to develop and use GIS in ways that will be more empathetic and better for humanity. Moreover, Drawing inspiration from this humanistic perspective, Dr. Zhao has undertaken several web cartographic and geovisual projects, such as the global refugee atlas, the shifting LGBTQ+ urban spaces, and the Archiving the CHOP. He will discuss these projects in the talk.
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About the speaker
Bo Zhao is an associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he directs the Humanistic GIS Lab. He earned his Ph.D. Degree in Geography from the Ohio State University in 2015. Zhao’s research efforts lie at the intersection between GIScience and Human Geography; this develops a unique research agenda around the social implications of newly emerging GIS technologies, especially for the interests of vulnerable populations, such as refugees displaced by climate change effects, LGBTQ+ communities in repressive national contexts, or Black communities who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Zhao studies how spatial data streams from social media are used in high profile social and political struggles, looking for instance at "location-spoofing" by activists - like indigenous groups involved in territorial struggles - or by reactionary groups agitating over "fake news." His publication on deepfake geography urges GIScientists to develop coping strategies to the ambivalent nature of GeoAI in the age of “post-truth”, Recently, he has been working on a research agenda around Humanistic GIS, which encourage people to redefine GIS by incorporating personal experience in the use and development of GIS applications. His recent studies have been funded by NSF, National Geographic, and Samsung.
Zhao, B. (2022). Humanistic GIS: Toward a research agenda. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 112(6), 1576-1592.
Huang, X., Bao, X., Li, Z., Zhang, S., & Zhao, B. (2023). Black businesses matter: A longitudinal study of black-owned restaurants in the COVID-19 pandemic using geospatial big data. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 113(1), 189-205.
Zhang, S., Zhao, B., Tian, Y., & Chen, S. (2021). Stand with# StandingRock: Envisioning an epistemological shift in understanding geospatial big data in the “post-truth” era. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111(4), 1025-1045.