5
SCENARIOS

The workshop broke into small groups, each elaborating on one of the four scenarios for the future discussed by Wegener and Masser (1996).* Their paper was intended to provoke response, and their scenarios adopt extreme positions based on emerging prominence of specific forces. The small groups worked from the premises laid out in the four scenario statements to identify positive and negative implications, stakeholders, and possible consequences for access to and use of spatial data. The Wegener-Masser scenarios were largely European based, and the small groups adopted a U.S. perspective in their discussions.

The purpose of this exercise was not to produce scenarios that are likely to occur, but for workshop participants to look beyond the status quo and examine what might happen without any system of checks and balances. The value of such an exercise in scenario building is twofold. First, it provides insight, through positive and negative outcomes, into what might occur if there are major societal shifts. Second, by systematically shifting assumptions about the future, we can assimilate different outcomes of current policies and approaches.

The names adopted for the four scenarios are those suggested by Wegener and Masser. The trend scenario is characterized by incremental diffusion of information systems along the lines experienced in the past. The market scenario extends current tendencies toward commodification of information, which restricts access to information to the more powerful. The big brother sce-

*  

 Michael Wegener and Ian Masser, "Brave New GIS Worlds," in Ian Masser, Heather Campbell, and Max Craglia, eds., GIS Diffusion: The Adoption and Use of Geographical Information Systems in Local Government in Europe, Taylor & Francis, London, 1996.



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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop 5 SCENARIOS The workshop broke into small groups, each elaborating on one of the four scenarios for the future discussed by Wegener and Masser (1996).* Their paper was intended to provoke response, and their scenarios adopt extreme positions based on emerging prominence of specific forces. The small groups worked from the premises laid out in the four scenario statements to identify positive and negative implications, stakeholders, and possible consequences for access to and use of spatial data. The Wegener-Masser scenarios were largely European based, and the small groups adopted a U.S. perspective in their discussions. The purpose of this exercise was not to produce scenarios that are likely to occur, but for workshop participants to look beyond the status quo and examine what might happen without any system of checks and balances. The value of such an exercise in scenario building is twofold. First, it provides insight, through positive and negative outcomes, into what might occur if there are major societal shifts. Second, by systematically shifting assumptions about the future, we can assimilate different outcomes of current policies and approaches. The names adopted for the four scenarios are those suggested by Wegener and Masser. The trend scenario is characterized by incremental diffusion of information systems along the lines experienced in the past. The market scenario extends current tendencies toward commodification of information, which restricts access to information to the more powerful. The big brother sce- *    Michael Wegener and Ian Masser, "Brave New GIS Worlds," in Ian Masser, Heather Campbell, and Max Craglia, eds., GIS Diffusion: The Adoption and Use of Geographical Information Systems in Local Government in Europe, Taylor & Francis, London, 1996.

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop THE VALUE OF SCENARIO BUILDING Scenarios are alternative environments in which today's decisions may be played out. They are not predictions. Nor are they strategies. Instead, they are descriptions of different futures specifically designed to highlight the risks and opportunities inherent in specific strategic issues. Alternative scenarios provide a way of focusing on the future without locking in on one forecast to the exclusion of other possibilities. At one level, scenarios can help overcome anxieties about the lack of evidence regarding the future, because scenarios do not claim to be predictions. Since we have no way of knowing which of the critical elements in our present environment will prevail in the future, we build existing uncertainties into different possible models of the future. The point of creating a set of scenarios is not to gather evidence to determine the most probable future, but rather . . . to make your stance to the future—which may change moment to moment, situation to situation—visible to you. From the June 1995 issue of the Global Business Network's (GBN) publication, The Deeper News, which features a report that GBN completed for the National Education Association. nario dramatizes the potential of geographic information systems (GIS) to be used for surveillance and control by fully integrated omniscient systems, which pervade all aspects of life. The beyond-GIS scenario speculates on how information in the public domain might contribute to greater democratization and grassroots empowerment. The beginning portion of each of the following discussions is a brief summary of the respective Wegener-Masser scenario. TREND SCENARIO The trend scenario is characterized by incremental diffusion of information systems along the lines experienced in the past, effectively envisioning a future that might result if current trends continue. Wegener and Masser describe a 20-year period (through 2015) of incredible technological innovations with quick market penetration. Spatial data are widely available, and GIS technology

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop is embedded almost transparently in day-to-day activities. In the United States, regional disparities in spatial data literacy are apparent among local administrative units (government and utility infrastructures). Disparities between professions are still evident. Elsewhere one still sees national discrepancies in citizen access to spatial data, although national level spatial data collection has been resolved in most countries. Occasional reports appear in the news media on gross inefficiencies in public-sector spatial data use. Despite this, legal decisions are more commonly based on GIS-processed data than in the past. Under this scenario, in the United States data would be available to everyone, business would experience a growth boom, and citizens would find a tremendous amount of individual freedom. GIS technology would be universal and transparent. The average citizen would be unaware of the extent to which decision-making would be based on imperfect technology or data. Spatial data would be available, and the technology for data access would reside in most consumer households. Responsibility for locating data and assessing fitness for use would rest with the private citizen. A generation gap in literacy would be evident, since schools would be using GIS in the normal curriculum, but older adults would find it increasingly difficult to keep abreast of the newer aspects of the technology. Spatial literacy would be evident in school children at an earlier age. Over time this generational discrepancy would likely disappear. Data would simply appear on the Internet. There would be no clear mandates for ownership or responsibilities for maintenance and collection. This could result in greater redundancy and its associated costs. Technological advances would continue. Software would be available commercially, more often in the form of individual applets than as integrated monolithic packages or software suites. Data delivery technology would become integrated, and conglomerates for data transmission would proliferate. At the private citizen level, data transmission service providers might continue in corner storefronts, expanding on the current services provided by Kinko's and similar vendors. Many positive implications can be predicted for stakeholders, a class including state and local government agencies (i.e., nonfederal) as well as commercial-sector data producers, and citizens. All three types of stakeholders would experience tremendous

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop operative freedom. Producers would benefit from increasing business opportunities. Decentralized data production and a lack of centrally adopted data standards would reduce some production costs and allow for redundant products to compete in the marketplace. Support for a national spatial database would likely wither in the face of private-sector market pressures. For the data consumers, levels of uncertainty about data availability and quality might increase. "Let the buyer beware" would be the unspoken credo. Risk and liability issues would be unresolved, and court cases would continue to proliferate. All three classes of stakeholders would experience this consequence. Negative consequences of the trend scenario also surfaced during discussions at the workshop. One negative consequence would be that, although a huge volume of spatial data would be available, and much would be in the public domain, only the educated elite would likely be aware of their existence or be able to assess the quality of the data. The task of data certification would become much more prominent than before because of the ease of data dissemination and lack of effective standards. Data certification would likely become privatized and decentralized, with analysts specialized for specific applications or geographic regions. This scenario proposes that the current trend away from centralized production of spatial data by the public sector will continue, placing huge responsibilities on the shoulders of data consumers. It would be more risky to remain a passive user of information, yet more people would be unaware of the potential consequences in the face of omnipresent and transparent technology. Under the "buyer beware" principle, untrained consumers (individuals and agencies) might trust in data as long as errors or inconsistencies were not discovered. The best defense against these negative consequences would be to ensure that robust curricula for spatial literacy are installed in schools at all levels of education. MARKET SCENARIO Under the market scenario, current tendencies toward commodification of information accelerate rapidly. In this future the information industry becomes the largest and most powerful

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop economic sector. Communications technology has completely integrated telephony, video, data, and text, and all transactions are logged in a network. Transactions are geocoded such that geographic location and electronic (topological) location on the network link electronic ordering and sales transactions with efficient delivery of physical items. Because of its potential value to marketers, control of network information has become a source of economic power. The factors that lead to this scenario are varied, but all are present at some level in most systems. The indicators for this scenario follow progressive steps toward privatization from today's level of public control. Each item in the list below brings society closer to privatization. As data copyright protections increase, profit incentives (to produce data) increase. There is an increase in the number of businesses adding value to spatial data. Citizens increase their demands to reduce public spending overall. Concerns about surveillance and invasion of privacy fail to capture popular interest. Industries that monitor and control consumer credit continue to grow. If these trends were to continue, information about more individuals would be recorded in central (proprietary) databases, and there would be an increase in logging of commercial transactions, allowing more effective monitoring of monetary flows. Opportunities to make a profit from monitoring and surveillance would arise; personal surveillance by corporate entities would be increasingly accepted; and corporate entities would merge to ensure a competitive edge. In these ways, privatization would begin to drive the generation of, use of, and access to spatial data and spatial data tools. Wegener and Masser discuss privatization occurring at all levels of government and the increasing homogenization of jobs. In developing nations, jobs would be tied to the production of goods. In developed nations, jobs would primarily entail the handling of

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop information. As privacy legislation becomes harmonized, it would remain legal to ". . .collect and trade data on individuals as long as the information appears to be correct" (Wegener and Masser, 1996). A market for value-added data services would develop, as well as consumer services for virtual tourism (imagine a virtual vacation to ancient Rome). Other rapidly growing markets, such as utility planning, facility management, and vehicle tracking and navigation systems for the rapidly growing Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems industry, would place opportunities for citizen surveillance squarely in the hands of large corporations. Marketing strategies could be developed and implemented with surgical precision. As Wegener and Masser comment: "As with today's video games, customers were lured into buying cheap hardware to make them captive to expensive software." This scenario describes a period of creative turbulence and confusion. Spatial information of any commercial value would be repeatedly encoded because there would be little commercial incentive for sharing or interoperability. Proprietary databases would vary in reliability, and incompatibility would become a common protection against data theft. Customized designer information could be created for specific purposes of individual clients. The notion of what is correct information would undergo a subtle change, and litigation skills would remain in great demand. One might see citizen participation in local planning and governance wither in the absence of public-domain spatial data. The higher costs of access to information from rural areas or inner cities would be important in this balance. "There is a widening gap between the information-rich and the information-poor, between those who participate in the information society as providers and manipulators of information and those who participate in it only as consumers and have access only to manipulated information" (Wegener and Masser, 1996). In summary, this scenario is marked by private-sector domination of the collection and dissemination of spatial data and associated services. Many corporate consolidations can be predicted, and the reduced number of players would be very competitive. The links between spatial literacy and economic power lead to greater and widening inequities. Personal monitoring and surveillance would be conducted by private entities for the purpose of making a profit. One consequence of privatization would be that

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop most network information would be proprietary; a second would be that government would likely pay real market costs for data traditionally produced by itself. BIG BROTHER SCENARIO The big brother scenario dramatizes the potential of GIS to be used for surveillance and control by fully integrated, omniscient systems that pervade all aspects of life. This third scenario of Wegener and Masser is characterized by increasing centralization of authority over access to, and distribution of, spatial data and GIS tools. A driving force for this future is reduced budgets coupled with lack of government responsiveness to rising crime and environmental catastrophe. The situation has instilled personal fear, together with political and social unrest. Information systems lack the accuracy and precision to resolve litigation relating to commercial and land-record disagreements. Indicators of this scenario would include rising fraud and corruption, rising white-collar and violent crime rates, increased dissatisfaction with governmental responses to natural disasters and social crises, increased visibility of real estate litigation, and terrorism against the information infrastructure at all levels (local to national). Authority over information systems and information technology would be centralized to regain control. As a result, the government in this scenario would regulate database accuracy and access. Artificial intelligence tools would be used to assess data quality. Access to information by the average citizen would be limited as a protection against terrorism. Individual commercial transactions and movements would be tracked. Taxation would become increasingly linked to commercial transactions, possibly in the form of a value-added tax, to preclude opportunities for evasion and tax fraud. At the limit, this scenario would completely replace the present internal revenue system. Vehicle tracking and personal positional tracking would be used to monitor daily movements (of all sorts, from consumerism through journey-to-work), justified by the need for societal protection and alerts in the event of environmental catastrophes, as well as to predict and respond to demands for improved transportation networks and infrastructure. Centralized GIS training programs

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop would be implemented that sidestep the existing education infrastructure. These tools would be designed by the most prominent GIS experts and delivered at all levels (K-12 through lifelong learning) of curricula. In the Wegener and Masser scenario, the average citizen feels secure. There is a loss of individual privacy, since personal surveillance is encouraged and even enforced. Spatial databases become fully integrated and allow easy linkages of all types of personal information. Those who do not participate are marginalized in society, effectively isolating those living in poverty or indicted for crimes. Interestingly, much of the big brother scenario is market driven. Wegener and Masser (1996) comment that global economic dominance drives the move toward data integration. They also state that ''. . . spatial information which is freely available to everybody is intrinsically dangerous, whereas in the hands of the corporate state it can guide a society to achieving its highest economic potential.'' As positive consequences, personal location devices would likely enhance public safety and deter incentives to violent crime. Emergency response and government agencies would be able to evacuate people from disaster areas more quickly. The Centers for Disease Control could better monitor the spread of infectious disease. A value-added tax on financial transactions could eliminate personal income tax. Improved traffic flow and efficiency could reduce the stress on renewable energy resources and on maintenance of the transportation infrastructure. Goods would move more efficiently, which would benefit commerce. The introduction of artificial intelligence technology could reduce fraud and abuse. Increases in database accuracy might reduce calls for litigation. On the negative side, GIS educational reform that brings spatial literacy to qualified students nationwide would not be offered to those outside the surveillance net, implying the exclusion of children of the poor, children of political dissenters, or social outcasts. BEYOND-GIS SCENARIO The beyond-GIS scenario speculates on how information in the public domain might contribute to greater democratization and grassroots empowerment. In Wegener and Masser's description, the

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop GIS boom ends in the late 1990s, coincident with a major change of values favoring a revival of grassroots democracy. "The shift benefited local government GIS. As local self-governance and local planning reemerged as a central forum of political debate, local government GIS became even more important in the form of decision support systems for local land use, transport, and environmental planning. In particular, the need to redirect urban development towards sustainability gave an unexpected boost to local government GIS as it became apparent that environmental analysis in fields such as air pollution, noise propagation, vegetation, wildlife, or microclimate required a more disaggregate spatial scale than conventional aggregate methods" (Wegener and Masser, 1996). In the big brother scenario, databases are large and centrally maintained and are applied by experts to the solution of society's problems. In this new scenario there is deep skepticism regarding such central solutions and a strongly held belief that society's problems can be solved only through participation of citizens at the local community level. The effect of new technology would be seen most clearly in the empowerment of individuals, and the ability to incorporate local knowledge into the databases used to find solutions to problems. The spatial data industry would become decentralized, adding value to local data and providing services to local communities. Users of a database would be able to spot errors and correct them based on their familiarity with the area, leading to substantially higher quality in both data and solutions to problems. The beyond-GIS scenario represents a major departure from many aspects of current practice. In addition to a different approach to the collection and assembly of data, involving much greater levels of local participation and control, it would require the development of decision support tools that emphasize collaborative decision-making and provide support for alternative perspectives and thus go far beyond the designs of the current generation of GIS. The small group examining this scenario undertook the exercise of itemizing the positive and negative effects on specific stakeholders. The beyond-GIS scenario would have positive effects in citizen satisfaction, overall spatial literacy, local sustainability, and protection for individual autonomy. The scenario would benefit the GIS market because it implies demand for a new generation of GIS tools. Value is placed on personal privacy. The shift toward

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop public control of spatial information places librarians and educators in the center of mediating between data producers and consumers in this scenario. The scenario provides a potential role for integrators of data and commercial services that add value to data. The scenario would create a demand for academic research that is more applied and more locally driven. Local community colleges would benefit, with increasing demands by local citizenry for literacy training. The negative consequences relate to the possibilities for local isolation and reluctance to preserve vertical and horizontal integration of data and decision-making tools. Wegener and Masser also indicate that participatory planning may become excessively time consuming because of increased awareness and active participation. Have-not communities could emerge. There could be problems maintaining local standards, and this could restrict movement of data. There could be impacts on the credibility of federal and state stakeholders and problems with the vertical integration of data from local to national holdings in the absence of standardization. Large utility companies could experience a negative impact, but local utilities would benefit. Individual citizens would benefit, particularly in well-off communities, but "outsiders" would not have opportunities to participate in decision-making.