Does anything exist?

“Do Mountains Exist? Towards an Ontology of Landforms” focuses on geospatial ontology creation and some of the main issues within this field. The main problem with answering the question “do mountains exist?” lies in the absence of bona fide boundaries for mountains. Moreover, the variety of definitions for “mountains” within different cultures adds to the difficulty of describing them. To properly define mountains, one must take into consideration multiple perspectives, including environmental boundaries (e.g. biomes and drainage basins).

One of the problems I had with this paper is that it does not delve into the importance of ontologies for GIS. “It is designed to provide computationally tractable, robust, neutral frameworks within which data deriving from different sources can be rendered intercommunicable”. This raises an issue that I had never fully considered. How can two individuals use the same dataset and be expected to come up with comparable results, if the data is not fully defined. This can cause issues within one research group, but is even more problematic if a researcher is using secondary data and cannot ask the original researcher for supplementary information. In this sense, ontologies serve to standardize concepts and allow for seamless exchange of information and knowledge. However, can concepts each have a single ontology? This seems impossible, considering the cultural and temporal implications of understanding and knowledge.



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