Searching for Common Ground (Again)

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GIScience 2016 Short Paper Proceedings Searching for Common Ground (Again) 1 J. Thatcher​ 1​ , L. Bergmann​ 2​ , D. O’Sullivan​ 3 University of Washington Tacoma, 1900 Commerce Street, Tacoma, WA 98402 Email: jethatch@uw.edu University of Washington, Box 353550, Seattle, WA 98195 Email: luke.bergmann@gmail.com University of California Berkeley, 504 McCone Hall #4740, Berkeley, CA 94720 Email: dosullivan@berkeley.edu Abstract At over twenty­five years old, GIScience has been successful academically and institutionally. However, its relationship to one of its ‘natural’ homes, the discipline of Geography, has often been troubled and uncertain. We suggest that from the founding of GIScience, its close association with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) has contributed to an acceptance of an absolute coordinate space ​ ​ encoded ​ ​ as (​ x , y [, ​ z , ​ t ]) as both a relatively unproblematic and dominant representation of geographical space. We briefly consider how this situation may have arisen, perhaps as an unintended consequence of an originally tactical disciplinary positioning move. However, our purpose here is ​ not criticism, but to highlight the many other more minor strands within GIScience, which can provide fertile common ground for renewed conversations between GIScience and Geography. We suggest congruences between less dominant strands of research in GIScience and theoretical concepts in Geography, as an invitation to constructive collaborations. 1. Introduction “GIScience,” as a term, is around a quarter of a century old. It has become institutionally and academically valorized through multiple conferences, journals, and textbooks. We argue that from its inception as distinct from GISystems (GIS), GIScience (GISci) has been framed in ways that have partially delimited the spatial thinking that occurs within it. Specifically, by framing GISci as fundamentally concerned with “spatial information” and “spatial analysis” of such information (Goodchild 1992, 2006), GISci has tended to accept space as absolute, transforming it into data whose ‘atomic’ units are measurements within a coordinate system of the form (​ x , ​ y [, ​ z , ​ t , etc.]) (Goodchild et al. 2007), and de­emphasizing alternative conceptualizations of space, time, and process. While this reflects GISci’s construction as a “science ​ of ​ geographical information ” (Goodchild 1992: 38, emphasis ours), we suggest that, in taking a specific concept of spatial information as given, GISci may have unnecessarily distanced itself from broader research in computational geography and in geographic thought. To make this argument, first, we briefly examine how GISci was framed in an important early conceptualization, focusing on definitions of geographic information. Next, we provide evidence suggestive of continuing ties between these early framings and ongoing research in the field. Finally, we suggest that a reconsideration of the conceptualizations of both space and spatial processes found in broader computational and quantitative geography as well as some theoretical realms of (human) Geography could be valuable to GISci. Our title is a nod to ​ A Search for Common Ground (Gould and Olsson 1982) and the follow up ​ A Ground for Common Search (Golledge et al. 1986) which were among the last attempts to bridge the philosophical divides between quantitative and ‘critical’ geography before the 1990s ‘science wars’ and, more recently, ‘critical GIS’.

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International Conference on GIScience Short Paper Proceedings






open access