Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Ideologies in Geospatial Futurism: A Computational and Critical Discourse Inquiry Into the Arcgis and ESRI-Blogs

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Abstract:  Geographic information systems (GIS) are ubiquitous building blocks of geosurveillance environments embedded in everyday social practices. This article builds on the literature on geomedia, the criticisms of GIS, and communicative spaces, to delve into the realm of GIS software and spatial analytics. The data corpus consists of ArcGIS and ESRI blogs on the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) site, which defines itself as the global market leader in GIS software, location intelligence, and mapping. This project assesses the impact of their discursive representations of the future and the societal implications of these views through an iterative process of computational and critical interpretive analyses—extending from LDA topic modelling to critical discourse analysis—to unveil the ideological underpinnings of a corporate-prescribed understanding of (GIS) future. The analysis reveals that representations of the future in the main blogs of the geospatial industry are deeply embedded in ideological principles that emphasise perceived indispensability and technosolutionism as the inherent belief that complex social, political, and economic issues can be solved primarily or exclusively through technological means. The article identifies the rhetorical and structural operations in a discourse that ultimately kidnaps any alternative futures. The geospatial industry’s representations of the future serve as ideological tools that shape perceptions about societal development and democratic conditions. The critical engagement with these representations contributes to understanding the role of GIS technology in the shaping of fair futures built on democratic public spheres in the digital age.

Keywords:  computational methods; discourse analysis; ESRI; future tropes; GIS; geomedia; ideology; spatial analytics; public spheres; topic modelling

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.8193


© Helena Atteneder, Joan Ramon Rodriguez-Amat. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.