Defining the field- Mark (2003)

In Geographic Information Science: Defining the field, Mark (2003) presents the “intellectual scope” of GIScience, and seeks to precisely define the science in a way that Goodchild (1992) did not do. He does this by suggesting that GIScience is a multi-disciplinary branch of information science, comparable to computer science. Mark clearly lays out the basic tenets of GIScience, and, in my opinion, successfully presents Geographic Information Science as a discipline that reaches far beyond GISystems and their applications. While reading the article, I often thought about the shortcomings in my GIS education during my undergraduate degree. GIS was presented almost exclusively as GISystems, and this article helped to provide me with a  base understanding of GIScience, its scope and its importance.

One thing that stood out to me, is that Mark suggests that GIScience became a truly academic field when the National Scientific Fund of the US began funding GIScience research. I find the use of agency funding as a source of science legitimacy incredibly interesting. On the one hand, funding is a crucial component of science and academia: without any funding, scientific research cannot be done. On the other hand, the fact that Mark’s understanding of the basic components of GIScience rests partially on successful funding proposals seems troubling. If government funding agencies have the power to define the scope and content of the science, is the science moving forward freely?

While this is a philosophical and ethical question that speaks more to our society than GIScience itself, given the personal privacy concerns tied to GIScience that we discussed in class, I feel somewhat perturbed by this. If government funding is pushing forward the scope and content of GIScience, how will citizen and consumer rights be protected?

One Response to “Defining the field- Mark (2003)”

  1. Giancarlo Cesarello says:

    In reading the article I found that in the definition of UCGIS may lack a fundamental “application” element in its definition. Stating the objectives of the Geographical Information Science (GI Science) as “the transformation of geographic data into useful information…” I think denotes rather a weak goal that is not necessarily ethical. This weakness may generate the ambiguity of where this science should find a proper location in the scientific discussion.
    The article conveys to me the benefits to the societal realm (not limited to the societal construct); therefore, that “positive net element” should be clearly stated in any definition.
    Is the goal of GI Science to answer fundamental scientific questions? I am not convinced; I believe GI Science plays a critical role to link scientific methods to the application of technology, which eventually must deliver a net benefit to society.
    The above characteristics create a new concept which is nor represented by the traditional Geoscience disciplines (Geology, Geophysics) nor implicitly disclosed by the Geographic disciplines.
    The problem is that recycling existing words or using old concept (like GIS), and forcing the community to distance itself from it doesn’t help and eventually, as expressed in the article, creates ambiguity and confusion.
    So are we stuck with a definition that eventually could trigger loss of opportunity and risky outcomes like the inevitable repercussion in recruiting investments, critical to the survivability of this scientific approach?
    Should we redesign a name that unequivocally represents the scientific effort into the Geo Information domain?