Visualizing Uncertainty: mis-addressed?

“Visualizing Geospatial Information Uncertainty…” by  MacEachren et al. presents a good overall view of geospatial information uncertainty and how to visualize it. However that said, many parts seemed to convey that all uncertainty must be defined in order to make correct decisions. In my realm of study, although it would be nice to eliminate or place uncertainty in a category, just the recognition that there is uncertainty is often definition enough to make informed decisions based on the observed trends. Furthermore, the authors seem to separate the different aspects of the environment or factors that lead to uncertainty and how it may be visualized. The use of many definitions and descriptions convolutes what is really the factors that result in uncertainty and the resulting issues with visualization. The way visualized uncertainty is presented greatly contrasts the ambiguity of the definitions behind uncertainty and its representation presented by the authors. The studies and ways uncertainty can be visualized is a great help in decision making and the recognition of further uncertainties.

One aspect that would have help in addressing uncertainty and its visualization would have been to integrate ideas and knowledge from the new emerging field of ecological stoichiometry, which looks at uncertainty, the flow of nutrients and energy, and the balance within ecosystems to answer and depict uncertainty. I believe that ecological stoichiometry would address many of the challenges in identification, representation and translation of uncertainty within GIS and help to clarify many problems. This stoichiometric approach falls along the scheme of the multi-disciplinary approach to uncertainty visualization described within the article.  However, as the article is limited to more generally understood approaches, rather than more complex ones, such as stoichiometry, do some of the proposed challenges in recognition and visualization of uncertainty not exist?  I would argue yes, but then again more challenges may arise in depiction, understanding and translation of uncertainty.


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