Embracing Uncertainty?

I found the chapter “Approaches to Uncertainty” to be an interesting read, although it is definitely one coming from an empirical, quantitative perspective. In particular, the discussion of ambiguity was interesting and somewhat confusing to me. I think that even the existence of discord depends on the user, the individual defining the object. In a territorial dispute, one individual may not even recognize that a dispute exists, while another might argue over it. Something that I found difficult about the author’s discussion of discord was that in the flow chart (figure 3.1), “expert opinion” follows from discord. This seems troublesome to me, and does not seem to fit with the example the author uses for discord. In a land dispute, where two groups have laid claim to an area and have deep roots there, it would not be appropriate to have an expert’s opinion. For one thing, who would be the expert? There are power dynamics inherent in who resolves spatial uncertainty, and in doing so, legitimizes one thing or another.

The article also made me reflect on our discussion about indigenous epistemologies. Rundstrom (1995) describes how indigenous people exhibit a “trust in ambiguity” and embrace the nuances of geographic spaces and living beings. In the article, ambiguity is defined as confusion over how a phenomenon should be classified because of differing perceptions of it. I think indigenous people as Rundstrom understands them would take issue with “how” a phenomenon should be classified, and argue if it should even be classified at all. Can GIScience embrace ambiguity in some ways? There is certainly a need for a way to incorporate more ambiguity into GIS if we are to try to represent indigenous geographies.


(As a side note if anyone is interested: I thought that the article at the following link brings up some interesting questions about spatial uncertainty – it incorporates many of the definitions this article does, as well as some discussion of indigenous conceptions of space. The figure 1 diagram is a good visual. http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/G02958.pdf.)

One Response to “Embracing Uncertainty?”

  1. BannerGrey says:

    This is a good link, Thanks Denasaur!!!!