Time After Time

Upon reading Yuan’s work on Temporal GIS and Spatio-temporal modelling, I have come to the realization that our current GIS systems are very much ill equipped to handle the storage and processing of all kinds of spatio-temporal models. Spatial is specials, yes, but all spaces are placed in time. We cannot ignore the fact that temporal is special too, everything happens in space and time. Most GIS data represents spatial information that is fixed in time, a slice of the full reality. Name me one process or object that hasn’t changed over time and I’ll bake you a cake of your choice.

The complexity of the six major types of spatial temporal changes in geographic information spoke to my unfamiliarity with such concepts. After 6 years of experience with GIS the subject of temporal GIS has not been addressed adequately to reflect the need to deeper development in this field. The need for further research is all too clear. The current GIS systems are incapable of modeling the temporal changes that most accurately describe phenomena such as forest fires or the development of storm systems in which objects change and transform over space and time. THe lack of support for such basic concepts echoes the incompatibility of GIS with other ways of knowing and the epistemology of the indigenous populations of northern Canada in particular.

The question remains: how will traditional GIS tools as we know them adopt and change to better address the potential that resides in these spheres, more importantly still how will implementation take place in the field? The introduction of a new data model that allows for the efficient and effective temporal analysis of phenomena would cause an overhaul in data structures as we know them, such changes would be well worth the effort. To continue as we currently do would be unfortunate.

With the advances in computational power that have led to rapid advances in geovisualization, the same tools should be directed towards the development of capability to handle all forms of temporal GIS.

– Othello

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