Mark (2003) – Defining GISc

In this paper, Mark characterises the emergence of Geographic Information Science (GISc) as a field of scientific inquiry, building upon previous definitions in a call for consensus among researchers. As an influential, early proponent of GISc, the author makes assertions about what constitutes GISc (spatial ontology, representations/ indices of geographic data, spatial cognition, human/ machine interaction with geographic information etc). The paper is also speculative, seeking reaffirmation from others in the field to help establish a concerted vision for GISc.
Nearly 15 years after publication, we might ask how well these definitions hold. In this time, important new actors have changed the way we collect, contribute and interact with spatial data. For example, smartphone users are able to efficiently search rich geographic databases (like Google Maps) for information relevant to them, in exchange for their own (partially) anonymised data. This widespread adoption of new technologies perhaps requires an even larger diversity of interdisciplinary work than anticipated by Mark, with issues of geosurveillance, privacy and big data necessarily introducing perspectives from law and data ethics. These developments have also changed who GISc is done by and done for – academics, governments, companies, citizens?
I would argue that GISc has securely established its place as a legitimate scientific discipline (it has its own Wikipedia page). Funding is an interesting proxy for legitimacy raised by Mark and other bloggers, and was certainly important during GISc’s infancy for addressing a research agenda, establishing networks/ standards through GISc organisations, and training students.  Over the last decade, there has been huge investment and contribution towards geospatial resources outside of academia, from private companies (Google, Facebook) and other social platforms. Has this further legitimised GISc as a field of research – both in leading development of new technologies, and by providing new research areas for GISc?

Comments are closed.