Wright et al 1997

The article is a good follow-up to Goodchild’s 1992 article. Perhaps it represents the first real “victory” for proponents of the scientific view of GIS, in which they manage to stand their ground in a debate with those who dismiss their viewpoint. What I get out of this article is insight into processes of technological and scientific discovery. People may invent an ingenious tool or technique, but it could take them a long time before they realize that they have unearthed something much bigger than a tool. Perhaps almost any given science can be thought of as an iceberg whose tip represents day-to-day application, but whose vast underwater body of understanding buoys that application. The author’s mention of applied sciences as a challenge to the simple tool/science dichotomy is very poignant. It reminds me that Agricultural science, as an applied science, would probably not meet the conservative definitions of science used by the “tool” side in this article, but agricultural science has certainly obtained prestige and support in the academy, and rightly so because agriculture is so widely practiced and fundamental to our survival. It is possible that after a technology is used for long enough and accumulates enough “reps” or a record of use, that only then can it finally be analyzed scientifically. Therefore the case for GIScience has gotten stronger over time. Finally, the article’s questioning of the very definition of science is important not only for GIS but for any important new field of study that is hindered by academic conservatism.




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