|Abstract||This research aims at exploring the relationship between the production and utilization of geographic information in Shanghai and its social contexts, in particular rapid urban development. During the past decade, GIS has emerged as a major tool of urban development and management in China. This research proposes that there is a mutual relationship between GIS adoption and urban development in Shanghai, while the meanings and significances of geographic information in the municipality are unique to the particular social contexts there.
The state monopolizes most GIS usage in Shanghai. Most early adopters are either governmental or closely related agencies. The state maintains its commanding position with a quasi-monopoly in geographic information collection and dissemination. Making use of ambiguity in the legal status of information restriction, some government officials have emerged as information gatekeepers and take over the decision making of geographic information dissemination. Information openness becomes the bottleneck of further GIS adoption in Shanghai. An uneven landscape of information openness that is contingent on the type of information and politics involved has created major information inequality among GIS users in Shanghai.
Policies around GIS adoption are often shaped by the particular mosaic of urban development discourses of the time. Their effects are uneven, and are contingent on the form of development that is supported by the current dominant themes, such as the promotion of Harmonious Society and Scientific Conception of Development. Meanwhile, GIS adoption also shapes the ongoing transformation of the content of and interaction among these themes. The result is a dynamic mutual relationship between technology and society that is constantly regenerated and open to reconfiguration.
Finally, through an investigation of the meanings and significance of geographic information in Shanghai, this research proposes the fundamental role of geographic information in human society should be taken seriously in the study of GIS and Society. The strict regulations on geographic information production and utilization in Shanghai, for instance, should not be understood as a set of given external orders, but investigated as an arena and result of the convoluted power contestation among several fundamental socio-political tensions in the contemporary Chinese society.