Nadine Schuurman -
Geraldine Pratt -

Critique: a detailed analysis and assessment of something, esp. a literary, philosophical, or political theory.

Critique, and how we approach it, is pivotal to understanding how the sciences develop and are defined.

Example: GIS ( Geographic information systems )
Often times, critique focuses on the problems with what is going on within a science, rather than focusing on really analyzing the situation objectively. Like in many things in life, we first start to look at the problems and address those, but often times the problem is a bigger aspect of technology / social / personal interaction.

Some critiques are inherently different as well, and in GIS they use the terms of 'external' and 'internal' to define the critiques that come from within the field and have an invested interest in its future, where as external are often from outsider critiques. It is important to realize the differences in approach, as they both have their own predetermined thought process and interests.

"Promulgation of positivism, repercussions of enshrining quantitative techniques in software, as we as social effects of GIS" (291) Originally welcomed as bringing a social edge to the current study trends.

The original critiques of GIS, as with many subjects in the science wars and life in general was the constructive nature of them. Like all sciences must do, in recent years the critique has become sistered with the actual scientists in the field in order to become a more constructive critique for both the internal and external debate. Critical GIS and GIS research still remain separated though,mainly over debates of positivism in GIS. I don't really understand yet how Positivism ( definition below ) can be a driving point for critique in geographical systems, but hopefully we can figure that out.

Positivism: A philosophical system that holds that every rationally justifiable assertion can be scientifically verified or is capable of logical or mathematical proof, and that therefore rejects metaphysics and theism.

These critiques of GIS and its relationship to positivism are in a way an example of poor critique. It was widely understood that the social theorists of GIS had a lot to complain about, but had no real suggestions of how to handle the problem. The emergence of this vague positivist theory brought the focus of much critique on a particular topic, rather than focusing on the technological and real world implications of GIS.

I still don't feel like i grasp postivism's role in GIS.


Schuurman and Pratt reference Spivak's notion of a deconstructive method towards achieving successful critique. We must separate ourselves from the work and become objective of it, but still acknowledge that we are "academics who are also shaped by the institutions in which we work, and by shared intellectual traditions"(295).

The feminist approach is in itself a critical viewpoint, that focuses on exploring the depth in the binary system that is often the surface level of the sciences, or the world. Rather than viewing a situation as black or white, the feminist approach aims to be as objective as possible.

Schuurman and Pratt summarize critique (in regards to STS) well in the final statement of the paper, " our objective is not just to criticize science, but to transform it through situated, knowledgeable, specific
conversations about the coding and objectification of the world, and about the powerladen particularities of this coding. Ill defined, generalized conversations about ‘positivism’ are unlikely to create the ground for these types of conversation" (297)