Extending a special session held at the 2008 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Boston, this commentary collection highlights elements of the critical GIS research agenda that are particularly pressing. Responding to a Progress report on critical GIS written by David O'Sullivan in 2006, these six commentaries discuss how different interpretations of 'critical' are traced through critical GIS research. Participants in the panel session discussed the need for a continued discussion of a code of ethics in GIS use in the context of ongoing efforts to alter or remake the software and its associated practices, of neo-geographies and volunteered geographies. There were continued calls for hope and practical ways to actualize this hope, and a recognition that critical GIS needs to remain relevant to the technology. This 'relevance' can be variously defined, and in doing so, researchers should consider their positioning vis-??-vis the technology. Throughout the commentaries collected here, a question remains as to what kind of work disciplinary sub-fields such as critical GIS and GIScience perform. This is a question about language, specifically the distance that language can create among practitioners and theoreticians, both in the case of critical GIS and more broadly throughout GIScience.