Formalization Matters: Critical GIS and Ontology Research (Schuurman, 2006)

This paper examines the reasons for the necessity of critical GIS in terms of formalizing the representation within GIScience. In other words, the author emphasizes the ontology research in GIScience. It is a fundamental and critical question when thinking about ontology. For critical GIS that concerning the influence of GIS in human and society, have standard theories of geospatial representation is necessary. The obvious reason is that technologies are no more value-neutral, it will be embedded in political life. The ontology research will build theoretical background for fitting GIS to the society for better tackling problem involving humans. It contributes to claiming GIScience as a scientific discipline. While as the author notes in the paper, critical GIS do not affect fundamental disciplines involves in GIScience. This may be because these disciplines have their own ontology systems or their purpose is not about the human and society. I believe ontology research in GIScience can refer to the relevant disciplines that have mature ontological researches.

However, I concern that the complexity of current geospatial information possibly hinders the ontology research. GIScientists are dealing with some information cannot be fully understood. For example, patterns embedded in big spatial information. Even we have algorithms to discover them, we cannot provide explanations sometimes. Investigating the causal relationships is more difficult than applying algorithms. That means we can produce cognitive models, conceptual representations, data presentation, and spatial concepts of it, but we cannot provide explanation. This is not acceptable because ontology research should be scientific with clear reasoning.

Comments are closed.