Spatial cognition, ontology, epistemology

Tversky, in his paper, divides spatial cognition into three “spaces”: navigation, surrounding the body, and the body. Reading this article brought to mind previous discussions in our classes with respect to ontology and epistemology. While the article gave a series of examples of each type of spatial cognition, they were mostly rooted within a Western Academic framework. It would be interesting to extend this discussion of spatial cognition to the ways in which it is variable.
I think that the way we think about space is highly structured by our environment and culture. That is to say that the way we order the environment is culturally located. The space of navigation is an easy place to see this difference. I remember in an earlier GIS class talking about the house numbering system in Japan. Wikipedia explains:

“In Japan and South Korea, a city is divided into small numbered zones. The houses within each zone are then labelled in the order in which they were constructed, or clockwise around the block. This system is comparable to the system of sestieri (sixths) used in Venice.”

Even this small detail will have bearing on the space of navigation. While I feel confident navigating the Canadian street system, I would be lost in this different system. I think that it would require that I think about space and spatial relationships in a new way. My spatial cognition is rooted in local understandings. Thinking of this in terms of GIS work, I think it is important to keep in mind the ways that we think about space in our work and how that accords with the people we are producing GIS with and for.



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