The cadastre as a socio-technical system

The cadastre as a socio-technical system

SHARE

Professor Erik Stubkjær
Professor Erik Stubkjær
Department of Development and Planning
Aalborg University, Denmark
[email protected]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term cadastre may refer to either ‘a register of property to serve as the base of a proportional taxation’, or to ‘a public register of the quantity, value, and ownership of the real property of a country’.

The latter phrase is best interpreted by taking into consideration a discussion within the United Kingdom after the 1850s, where it was debated whether a cadastre should be established, extending the existing Land Registry. In Continental Europe as well as within the UK, ownership and other interests in land were – more or less completely – recorded at local courts. However in Continental Europe, cadastres were introduced from 1700s as a means of levying tax. These cadastres included large scale maps and were managed by the fiscal administration and not by the courts. Accordingly, a cadastre would not contain authoritative information regarding ownership, which was the province of the land registries.

In modern terms we may say that a cadastre is a parcel-based GIS, which according to statute law records units of immobile property, their identifiers and attributes. Implicit in this definition are the requests that the GIS should be specific, as to identify pieces of land and their boundaries, and complete, as to cover the whole jurisdiction in a systematic fashion.

A trouble with this GIS-related definition of cadastre, which fits both of the first-mentioned interpretations, is that it does not make sense to most legal advisers. They, now as before, relate recordings on land to the land registries. This lack of coherence may be attributed to the fact that we communicate in the English language of a society, which did not implement the cadastre of the Continental European conception. The continental conception was not coined merely to levy taxes, but emerged through an effort by absolutist kings and their advisers to bring about best use of resources of the realm for ‘the common good’. Using new technologies of that time, fractions (calculations) and the plane table, taxes were recast in more rational fashion. More important from a development perspective, an independent governmental fiscal organisation was set up, which eventually bypassed landlords and local corporations, and by that contributed towards the modern state., Mention is made that in international development work and in professional terminology, the cadastre is often subsumed under terms like Land management, Land administration, or Spatial Data Infrastructures. Yet, the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) has issued publications directly addressing the cadastre (primarily No. 11, 1995). Here, however, an attempt is made to arrive at a more basic determination of the concept.

The notion of socio-technical system may refer to the organisation of labour relative to technology, but is used here to consider the essential differences among the elements of such systems. Engineering tasks have developed from the design of a product for delivery along two lines. One line of change regards the increasing complexity of the technical artefacts designed and put into use, e.g. an air plane. The other line of growing complexity relates to the design process, which increasingly not stops at delivery, but includes a life-cycle approach and/or a co-design of the manufacturing organisation. A consequence of the growing complexity is that an understanding of the laws of physics and logic is not sufficient to achieve the intended outcome. Humans come in, and with humans difficult issues like tacit knowledge and norms. Accordingly, socio-technical systems are conceived as made up of three categories of elements. [See Figure 1] The technical elements make one category. Next is a category of actors. Actors are physical persons, moreover legal persons like organisations of any kind, and finally groups. Decisive is that actors have intentionality. The third category of social element is a kind of residual, as it excludes elements of the technical category, which are subject to the law of nature, as well as elements which have intentionality, as has the actor. Legislation and other rules are good examples of a social element. Social elements tend to restrict the behaviour of actors in analogy with technical elements being dependent on the laws of nature. Of course, actors can ignore and even oppose social norms; also, the modelling does not assume that actors always behave in a rational way.