Modeling Vague Places

The article, Modelling Vague Places with Knowledge from the Web, acknowledges the fact that delimiting places is embedded in human processes. The paper’s discussion of people’s perception of the extent of places reminds me of my own topic related to spatial cognition within the field of GIScience (Jones et al., 2008). For example, the authors in the article assert that one way to map the extent of a “vague” place is to ask human subjects to draw its boundary. Acquired spatial knowledge of landmarks, road signs, nodes, and intersections inform how we define and draw these boundaries. In addition, the important role of language in applying Web queries reminds me of literature I read about the relationship between spatial cognition and language. Specifically, the article reminds us about how spatial relationships between objects are encoded both linguistically and visually. In addition, this topic very much relates to Olivia’s topic of geospatial ontologies. It reminds me of the example Prof. Sieber gave us in class about trying to define what constitutes something as a mountain. Where do we draw the line? Who get to agree on what makes a mountain? What empirical approaches exist/can we apply to human interviews to know what defines a geospatial entity such as a mountain?

In addition, I liked this article because it reveals the science behind GIS applications. More specifically, the article examines the science behind density surface modeling, alternative web harvesting techniques, and new methods applied to geographical Web search engines. I found the discussion about web harvesting relevant to my experience of applying webscraping tools to geospatial data in GEOG 407. Learning how these tools can be applied to observe and represent vague places is a very interesting concept and a dimension of web harvesting I had never considered before reading this article.

In addition, this paper reveals to me the part that the geospatial Web plays in increasing the magnitude and extent of geospatial data collection. I suspect that in the future, the geospatial Web will play an important part in conducting data-driven studies about problems and uncertainties within the field GIScience.


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