2022 - Does GeoAI Promise an Ethical Future for Spatial Analytics?

As part of its annual workshop series, the Spatial Analysis Research Center (SPARC) at Arizona State University organized a webinar entitled “Does GeoAI Promise an Ethical Future for Spatial Analytics?” The webinar was co-chaired by Michael Goodchild, Stewart Fotheringham, and Wenwen Li and it was the last in a series organized under the GeoEthics project, a collaboration between the American Association of Geographers and the University of California, Santa Barbara, with sponsorship from Esri (for details on the project see https://aag-geoethics-series.secure-platform.com/a/).

The webinar, held on February 8, 2022, featured an expert-led discussion of ethical GeoAI challenges and opportunities at the frontier of geographic research. Speakers at the webinar were:

  • Yu Liu (Peking University) who discussed the role of GeoAI in two distinct types of knowledge discovery: the discovery of “big unknowns” in the idiographic tradition, and the discovery of “universal laws” in the nomothetic tradition.
  • Renee Sieber (McGill University) who discussed the broader field of AI ethics, and its relationship to GeoAI.
  • Krzysztof Janowicz (University of California, Santa Barbara) who discussed ethical issues confronting GeoAI, including the “data acquisition bottleneck.”
  • Wenwen Li (Arizona State University) who discussed challenges in practicing ethical principles in GeoAI research involving image analysis and computer vision.

An interactive panel discussion hosted by Stewart Fotheringham, Peter Kedron, and May Yuan followed the remarks of the speakers, where they also provided perspectives on the needs for a better definition of the relationships between AI, GeoAI and GeoEthics, as well as on the future development of GeoAI. The Webinar was concluded by Michael Goodchild, who acknowledged the vast scope of ethical GeoAI research and echoed Stewart Fotheringham’s call for good examples of both ethical and unethical development and applications of GeoAI. Dr. Goodchild also identified four ways in which the momentum of this webinar might be sustained: with the traditional academic products of books, special issues of journals, and funding; with further sessions on the topic at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers; with a face-to-face summit to provide a capstone to the GeoEthics series of webinars; and with the development of one or more white papers that could be designed to reach interested audiences. The video recording of this Webinar is available here.

Further Information about the AAG Series on Ethics in Geographic Research

Follow the latest developments and all the updates from the AAG GeoEthics Webinar Series. This site will be continually updated as further webinar information becomes available and follow-up activities begin. 

About the presenters:

Yu Liu – Peking University
Yu Liu is Boya Professor of GIScience at Peking University. His research interests focus on analytical methods for various big geo-data.

Renee Sieber – McGill University
Renee E. Sieber is an Associate Professor of Geography at McGill University. Her research interests center on the use of information technology by marginalized communities, community-based organizations, and social movements.

Krzysztof Janowicz – University of California, Santa Barbara
Krzysztof Janowicz is a Professor for GIScience/Geoinformatics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and director of the Center for Spatial Studies. His research focuses on how humans conceptualize the space around them based on their behavior, focusing particularly on regional and cultural differences with the ultimate goal of assisting machines to better understand the information needs of an increasingly diverse user base.

Wenwen Li – Arizona State University
Wenwen Li is a Professor in GIScience in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University. She also directs the Cyberinfrastructure and Computational Intelligence Lab. Her research interests include cyberinfrastructure, big data, geospatial artificial intelligence (GeoAI) and their applications in data-intensive environmental and social sciences, including global warming and Arctic change, terrain analysis, disaster relief, and water insecurity in underserved communities.