Modelling Vague Places – the meaning in a name

Excuse me for my invocation of a bit of prose, but this was the first thing to spring to mind upon completing the article by Jones et al. (2008):


What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;

And for that name, which is no part of thee,

Take all myself. (2.2.47-53)

– Juliet, Romeo and Juliet


Personally, I usually can’t stand the insipid characters in the aforementioned play but in this case they do provide interesting context. While Juliet is happy to ignore all the meaning in a name, I would argue that Jones et al. do the opposite – in fact, they assume that all names have meaning enough that even vague geographic descriptors should be subject to quantitative analysis. I do wonder how big data can help analysis of vague spaces because of the sheer quantity of data that could allow for better modelling.


After our discussion in class about indigenous use of GPS and GIS, I do also want to know how modelling of vague places could be specific to an ontology that prioritizes precision. Does everything need to be quantified? Should it be quantified and where exactly does the role of ambiguity play into more cultural understanding of places?


Furthermore, I really liked the description of how a place can be described by what it is not, for example an area can be clearly defined by determining all boundaries around it. A fun fact, the Student Society of McGill University was actually called the “Students’ Society of the Educational Institute Roughly Bounded by Peel, Penfield, University, Sherbrooke and Mac Campus” as a protest against not being able to use the word ‘McGill’ in Student Clubs. Overall, names are incredibly important and can be described in many ways and methods of quantifying vague names could give rise to new understanding of how space is conceptualized.



One Response to “Modelling Vague Places – the meaning in a name”

  1. sieber says:

    Love your example of vagueness!