Certainty of Uncertainty!

Helen Couclelis wrote an article called Certainty of Uncertainty and I think that David J. Unwin is making a similar point. The problem of uncertainty is not merely technical. Uncertainty doesn’t only come from data and information but it is also about geographical knowledge that is sometimes inevitably uncertain. There are things that we simply can’t know. The literature focus on finding technical solutions, but the author explains that “at the heart of all the contributions is a concern for exactly how we can usefully represent our geographic knowledge in the primitive world of the digital computer”.

As mentioned in previous discussion about ontology, we conceptualize the world as field or object based which correspond to raster or vector in GIS. The author shows that both representation comes with specific uncertainties. Furthermore, we discussed how delimitating boundaries is often a difficult task and uncertainty is inevitable. The conclusion is bringing us back to the first discussion in class about GIS as a tool or as science and the determinism of the technology. The author suggest that rethinking the way we use the technology and the way we structure problems and databases is essential to achieve sensitivity in GIS. It is about adapting the technology to represent knowledge in a way that would take into consideration our conceptualization of the world and not merely relying on GIS technology to calculate the world for us.

Couclelis, H. (2003). The Certainty of Uncertainty: GIS and the Limits of Geographic Knowledge. Transactions in GIS, 7(2), 165-175.


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