chapter  12
12 Pages

Cultural Intermixing, the Diffusion of GIS and its Application to Coastal Management in Developing Countries

Whether viewed as system or as science, the origins and development of GIS are essentially rooted in Western (largely “Anglo-Saxon”) geographies, sciences, and technologies. Indeed, Coppock and Rhind are even more specific, and point to the “dominant contribution of North America to the development and implementation of GIS up to the mid-and late-1980s” (Coppock and Rhind, 1991). In addition, the overwhelming majority of international scientific journals and educational texts in the discipline similarly originate in Europe and North America. They are also mostly anglophone, although recent years have seen the gradual emergence of a corpus of GIS literature in non-English, though still predominantly European, languages (e.g., for the French language, see Collet, 1992; Didier and Bouveyron, 1993; Pantazis and Donnay, 1996; Pornon and Hortefeux, 1992; as well as references in Bourcier, this volume, Populus et al., this volume, and Gourmelon and Le Berre, this volume). While the origins of GIS and most other Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) lie in the West, they are increasingly being applied to other parts of the world, and their diffusion may be seen as a step towards the eventual creation of global information infrastructures. This transfer of GIS and ICTs, as well as the know-how to apply them, is generally heralded as a “good thing” (Nag, 1987; Taylor, 1991; Hastings and Clark, 1991; Yeh, 1991; Salem, 1994; Alhusein, 1994; Metz et al., 2000; Nwilo, this volume), and a growing corpus of literature attests to the benefits that can accrue to receiving countries from the acquisition and application of spatial information technologies. Less well-publicised is the potential for cultural and other impacts on nonwestern societies as these tools and technologies become more widespread. In this paper, we explore some of the issues that we believe merit closer study in this

regard, drawing by way of example on the use of GIS for coastal zone management in the Indian sub-continent.