I found Marceau’s article to be a clear and easy-to-understand explanation of spatial scale, different frameworks of space and scale, and problems to do with spatial scale. I realized that I had really only thought of space, and therefore spatial scales, in the absolute sense, and I am looking forward to understanding the relative sense more fully.
This article made me think of discussions of how to incorporate qualitative data and methods in critical GIS. How would one go about using qualitative data while being cognisant of the problems presented here with spatial scales? From what I could find, there has not been much explicit discussion of spatial scales in qualitative GIS. However, I did find an interesting piece by Knigge and Cope (2009) in Qualitative GIS that relates the two topics. They use interviews and conversations to explore residents’ ideas of the vacancies on a rundown commercial street in Buffalo NY. They argue that the social production of scale is dependent on multiple processes (such as economic exchanges) and discursive practices, such as the imagining of “the city” or “the neighborhood.” They indicate that the scale at which data was collected revealed different interpretations of vacancy, which often conflict one another. However, one question that this paper brought up for me was the fact that the authors were examining this issue “through the lens of scale” – so does this mean that scale is just another lens through which problems can be explored, and therefore a lens that can be disregarded when it isn’t relevant? To what extent is scale a fundamental geographical issue that is necessary to address – or is it only relevant when it is causing these problems that Marceau talks about?
I may be in a bit over my head in trying to relate the very complex and nuanced topics of qualitative GIS and spatial scales, but I think there is definitely room for more research on the intersection of these subjects.
Knigge, L., & Cope, M. (2009). Grounded visualization and scale: A recursive analysis of community spaces. Qualitative GIS. A mixed methods approach, 95-114.