Department of Geography
End-of-Year Fellowship Report for 2004-05.
My research specifically addresses the digital divide that exists in America along the lines of race and class that can hamper the predominantly black and poor underclass that resides in American inner-city neighborhoods. For instance, Geographic Information Systems, a complex spatial analysis technology, is commonly used in everyday planning activities, but is beyond the reach of citizen based organizations in inner-city neighborhoods that are involved in inner-city revitalization and planning activities. High cost and technological complexity are the main reasons behind this digital divide, which has concerned both academics and practitioners, leading to an array of initiatives through which GIS and spatial data have been made available to marginalized citizen groups in order to facilitate their community revitalization tasks. A new research agenda has thus risen, called Public Participation GIS, which explores the issues of access and use of GIS among marginalized community organizations. I have been conducting research on PPGIS in Milwaukee among inner-city neighborhood groups. The fellowship provided me the opportunity to explore new theoretical directions to understand the complexities behind the spatial knowledge production among poor community organizations. I benefited tremendously from the course reduction that came with the fellowship, which offered me the opportunity to pursue four different bodies of scholarly literature: neoliberalism from political economy, citizenship from political geography, politics of scale from political and economic geography and various social network theories (social network, network embeddedness and actor-network theory) from sociology. A study of these different theories, along with new field work I conducted in 2004, has enabled me to write a number of different scholarly papers in Geography that offer new theoretical frameworks to explain complexities of GIS usage among different social groups. Without the fellowship, I would not have been able to pursue so many theoretical avenues. Apart from such material benefits, I also benefited immensely from the intellectual benefits of attending fellowship seminars and colloquiums. The fellows are from different academic backgrounds with different research projects. The readings assigned by the different fellows, as well as the conversations that took place during the seminar meetings were fascinating, and opened new academic horizons for me. My own research undoubtedly benefited from such interactions, as I was exposed to different thoughts and different perspectives. The colloquiums were also fascinating, and again, I benefited hugely from listening to various speakers at the Center colloquiums.
There are several tangible outcomes of my fellowship. I have written several scholarly articles, and made research presentations at different conferences. Particularly significant is my presentation at the International GIScience conference, which had a 75% rejection rate this year, and accepted only those papers that made a significant contribution to the field of GIScience. In terms of my publications, one of the papers written during the fellowship has been published in the British journal Space and Polity. Another was published in the International GIScience Conference Proceedings. A third is ready for submission to the journal Environment and Planning A, and a fourth paper is in a draft stage. Finally, based on my work during the fellowship, I am currently writing a grant proposal that will be submitted to the National Science Foundation, during its August deadline.