Critical Geographic Information Science (GIS)

What is Critical GIS?

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Mahmoudi, Dillon. 2020. “Critical Geographic Information System.” In International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, edited by Audrey Kobayashi, 2nd edition, 3:31–36. Thousand Oaks, CA: Elsevier. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-102295-5.10530-X

This article is a revision of the previous edition article by N. Schuurman, volume 2, pp 363–368.

We also published commentary in EPA covering the topics and discussions at the 2014 Revisiting Critical GIS workshop and conference.


Critical GIS combines the technical field of geographic information science (GIS) with heterodox social theory. The result is a rich field whose technical focus incorporates cartography, computation, big data, and information science, with theoretical moorings in critical human geography, feminism, STS, and scholar-activism. A series of critiques of the technoscientific nature of traditional GIS undergird the formation of critical GIS as a subdiscipline and continues to contribute to its evolving definitions. One notable challenge for any definition of a critical GIS is the continued development of the technologies of GIS itself and the social, political, and economic transformations that reflect and feedback into the continued evolution of technology. Critical GIS is thus dynamic but has rich histories that include critiques and contributions of scholars that mirror science and technology studies (STS), feminism and GIS, ontology, research, and participatory GIS (PGIS).