Uncertainty: management and confidence

Hunter and Goodchild’s article presented critical questions regarding spatial databases and uncertainty. One imminent question stood out: “How can the results be used in practice?” In the spatial databases produced, keeping track of errors is vital because it encourages transparency, and initiates a chain reaction. This management feature can lead to an increase in the quality of products. Thus, a better product is created through improved value judgements made. This, in turn, influences (and hopefully diminishes) the level of uncertainty it has. However, we must not get ahead of ourselves; “…while users at first exhibit very little knowledge of uncertainty this is followed by a considerable rise once they learn to question their products…” (59). Even though this spike in knowledge occurs, over time, knowledge tends to decrease once a threshold of familiarity and experience is reached. So users must remember to stay on top of their game and remain critical and aware of the products they make use of.

This is all relative to the type of decisions being made. Because the nature of decisions has such vast ranges and opposite spectrums of implications – from non-political to political, minimal risk to high risk – uncertainty is more apparent than ever. Heterogeneity, from data to decision implications, will exist; “…regardless of the amount by which uncertainty is reduced the task can never be 100 percent successful simply because no model will ever perfectly reflect the real world” (59). Therefore, we should settle with what it seems to be an unsettling thought. This makes me think of sah’s post. I also believe that we can find an element of comfort in uncertainty.

By “educating users to understand and apply error visualization tools”, will hopefully lead to improved decision-making pertaining to suitable data quality components and visualization techniques for products (61). Thus, a “lack of confidence in the system” (58) can be diminished; even better, confidence may be gained. Vexing characteristics of uncertainty need to be addressed in order for a clearer segue and a stronger link between theory and practice to exist.

-henry miller

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