Twenty years of progress: GIScience in 2010 (Goodchild)

I thought this paper was a natural complement to the previous article which discussed the question of GIScience/Tool, and the domain of geo-information science in its nascence. Goodchild discusses events which have raised the profile of the field, like the 20th anniversary of US National Center ¬†for Geofraphic and Information and Analysis by the National Science Foundation and the appointment of GIScientists to prominent roles in the public sector. He also recognizes the highly subjective nature of his assertions, and how “successes” or “discoveries” have a broad and malleable definition, especially for a field still grappling with its academic identity.

I found the diagrams to be very helpful in gauging the various subfields of GIS and which ideas and authors have bee influential in shaping the discourse, especially Figure 2. The spatial grouping of authors by category and the correlation between size/citing frequency were additional helpful features.

Like the 1997 paper, there was some hand-wringing about the “second-class status” (p5) that would be suffered by practitioners of GIS if it were to rely too much on technology and not on theory. Clearly, the desire to prove the fundamental theoretical importance of GISciences remains alive and well.

As a Cognitive Science/ Urban Systems double major, I enjoyed the emphasis on the interdisciplinary nature of GIS throughout, especially when he equates advancements in the field of human genomics and neuroscience as having implications for spatial analysis in GIScience. As we know, there is considerable overlap between these two fields for example in the use of agent-based modeling, topographical analysis, and neural cartography. I found this to be a compelling argument for GIS being a novel, multi-disciplinary science for a new era of heightened  information and connectivity.

I am not sure if I agree with Marc Amstrong’s claim (pg 8) that GIScience “was not so much about discovery as about transformation.” Whereas the processes might be transformative (literally going from paper to digital), I think the trends, patterns, and answers that GIS produces through its visualizations can be categorized as discoveries.

I appreciated the discussion of “error” and “uncertainty” and the explanation of how the former, while prevalent in the early days of GIS, came to be understood in terms of the latter when the problems faced by researchers became clearer. Tracing the jargon of a discipline and how changes in language use reflect systemic changes in how a discipline is conceptualized and performed is a worthwhile endeavour.

There were a number of pressing questions put forth in the “Technology of Dynamics (4.3)” section, namely, who should have access to the vast amounts of ¬†geographic data made possibly by mobile tracking and sensors in the environment. He makes a strong case for the need for local/national/international/ transnational organization to make sure that data is safely handled, coherent, useful. I don’t think we have answers for many of the problems and potential research areas (3D mapping) which Goodchild puts forth in his conclusion.

— futureSpock





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