Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Military-Industrial Complex and Geography

Geography is a racket.  Well, professional and academic Geography can be, anyways.  The crooked relationship between professional geography, academic geography, and the military is not universal but it does exist.  While many academic geographers are on the political Left and would go well out of their way not to be associated with the military while they feed off public money via salaries and grants, some in the more conservative geospatial realm of Geography are forming a military-industrial-academic iron triangle.

The main main alliance is between ESRI and the government and the military.  ESRI controls GIS in the government via ArcGIS.  One will never find another GIS program on closed government systems.  ESRI does not need to make a popular GIS program which people can afford as it can rely on high cost (up to $1,500 per user) licences.

Another example is the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.  The USGIF is an organization which lobbies for federal funding for geospatial technology and tools.  Its board is comprised of member of the geospatial business community and former government officials.  The USGIF has a close working relationship Department of Defense bodies like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.  It hosts the GEOINT conferences which brings the directors of these agencies to speak to the crowd of government officials, military officers, and professionals.

Finally, the Geography Military-Industrial-Academic Complex self sustains itself by giving federal funds to academic to produce overpriced textbooks which could not be profitable without forcing students to by them for classes.

Now the latter two examples are true for many subjects not just Geography.  The first example is common in many computer science fields as well.  It is just depressing that Geography is playing part in this game too.

3 comments:

Adrian said...

I've actually found that a lot of govt' types use MapPoint. I use ArcGIS myself though.

Tony Burton said...

Excellent post! It's always amazed me that many geographers do not realize the true significance of such commercial links involving geographers. Keep up the great work! Tony

Catholicgauze said...

Thanks for the comments.

Adrian,
Never seen a computer with MapPoint in the field. Ha.

Tony,
Thanks. Great shame about this all.