Effectively communicating spatial arguments

After reading through the 1992 article “Optimal Routes in GIS and Emergency Planning Applications”, I notice myself reflecting on how the information in the article is presented to me. Perhaps as a result of working on my upcoming Geovisualization seminar, I am seeing everything through a lens of how users interpret visual stimuli. After I noticed this, I followed my own processing of the articles information being presented to me. The strange thing about many articles in the geographic field is that often they don’t include very good maps. Geography as a subject is inherently visual, after all, spatial data is all about how things related to each other in space – something that we tend to perceive visually. It’s difficult to make sense of spatial concepts without visual aids to explain them.

In the case of this article, its grade in terms of its visual communicative abilities is worthy of debate. It would be essentially impossible to understand much of what is being talked about with Fig’s 1 and 2, which add much needed context to the network analysis concept being explored. However, this is all that is communicated – purely the spatial data exploring the toolsets in question. The tools are framed as being used in an emergency management context, and the maps provided do little to add a place to the space. I would personally say that this degrades from the communicative abilities of the article, but I also understand the perspective that GIScience articles are intended to solely explore the tool/topic for its own merit rather than in the context where it is being explored. In reviewing more recent literature, I have seen writers err on both sides of this line – indicating that this is a debate that has not been settled since 1992.

One Response to “Effectively communicating spatial arguments”

  1. Sieber says:

    “Geography as a subject is inherently visual”: I think that’s worth contesting. Geography is about the abstraction of representation. I’m not sure it has to be visual.