Week 1_GEOG 506: GIS: Tool or Science?

System, science, or something in-between; geospatial practitioners have been diligently compartmentalizing the true definition of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The Wright article takes an open source approach to capturing the thoughts, perspectives, and beliefs towards this debate, by providing a framework of discussion through an online forum. The underlying basis between differentiating GIS as a science or tool stems from the authors apparent desire to establish a greater understanding to the academic and science community.

Throughout reading this article I struggled with the understanding of ‘why’ any of this matters? The article even goes so far as to mention that this purpose of this debate relies on the subtle reality that one classification (i.e., science) might have a greater apparent “superiority” over another (i.e., tool). The authors goes to great depth to explain that all GIS users must find an equilibrium between “falling into scientism” and “dragging it off its (science) pedestal”. As per the recommendations, academic institutions might have to alter their teaching approaches to adequately represent their GIS objectives. However, for the every-day GIS practitioner, little of this article would sufficiently change their program use or career objectives. For those who use GIS as a tool, tool-maker, or science, it may not necessarily matter the nomenclature. Such as an architect may not agonize over the perceived differences of their work for the intrinsic physical purpose or overall artistic value.

The article itself was in-depth and offered a bias-adverse perspective communicated through the numerous contributing forum members. Although, this article was written almost two decades ago, the argument remains valid and remains useful towards the ever-changing field of geographic information systems and science.



Comments are closed.