Rethink the Definition of GIS–Wright et al. reading

To better understand GIS, Goodchild et al. had presented a good review about the argument whether GIS is science or tool. Authors introduced the GSL-L discussion about tool and science argument of GIS chronologically, and summarized different standpoint about GIS conceptualization. Authors further examined the definition of science, to clarify that GIS is science. Finally, with GIS and “doing GIS”, Goodchild et al. concluded three poisons on GIS: GIS as tool, tool making and science. I find these three definitions converge with the development of GIS.

I define GIS as a combination of tool, tool making and science. Nowadays, research about GIS includes a large body of disciplines, such as software engineering, pattern recognition, statistics, spatial analysis, geosensor engineering and so on. It becomes more difficult to choose a side in the argument of whether GIS is science or tool. Considering the current development of GIS, it turns out to be an integration of science and engineering. By using GIS as tools, scientists can pursue knowledge discovery in different domains. From the experience and methodologies of using GIS, we can identify and formalize GIS as science. And the theories and methodologies in GIS can help us to develop better GIS tools, as better approaches of tool making. This loop continues with better GIS tools lead to more efficient scientific research. In the future, the combination of tool, tool making and science will become even tighter in GIS, and we need to review the definition of GIS with its development.


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