Do geospatial ontologies perpetuate Indigenous assimilation? (Reid & Sieber, 2019)

To answer the title of the paper succinctly: yes, geospatial ontologies do perpetuate Indigenous assimilation when no Indigenous perspectives are considered; however, if researchers do consider Indigenous perspectives, decolonization of geospatial research is possible. Indigenous people across the globe view their landscape much differently than western geographers do; for example, physical entities can have their own agency, there are less abrupt changes between different aspects of the landscape, and often there is no separation between cultural beliefs and the entity itself.  With more Indigenous experts participating in discussions of ethnophysiography and geospatial ontologies, it appears that there can be no universality of geospatial ontologies and that multiple worlds must exist.

Concerning GIScience, ontologies have an important place in discussing landscape perspectives, especially in an ever-connected and technologically-driven world where standardization and simplicity reign. With the rise of the neogeography and VGI, geospatial ontologies are more important than ever, as everyone who is contributing geographic data should view physical entities of their landscape in a similar manner in order for the data to be viewed as accurate and useful.

After reading this paper, I have some questions regarding Indigenous ontologies and geospatial ontologies generally: how much differentiation is there between different Indigenous groups’ perspectives of their landscape? How often was universality discussed before the creation of the internet? What is the research on ontology universality like today – is it still a popular field of research like it was in the 2000s?  How do Indigenous perspectives translate to modern technology – do computers have trouble understanding their view of the landscape? What else is being done to decolonize geographic research?

I realize some of these questions might have answers in other literature, especially since I do not have a lot of prior research in Indigenous studies nor ontologies, and I welcome any response educating me or pointing me in the direction of other papers that may answer my questions.




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