Cognitive Research in GIS – Montello

The article by Montello introduces six areas of recent cognitive GIS research and raises many questions about cognitive research in GIScience. I found it interesting that Montello included questions about the discipline of GIS itself. For example, the author questions whether GIS is coherent as a discipline and can be referred to as a single entity, and if it is possible for any individual to know about and integrate all the different fields that contribute to GIScience.

One point I found especially interesting was that “GIS is not exclusively spatial.” In our discussions, we have not talked much about the distinctions between geographical and spatial. This statement, I imagine, would be rather mind-blowing for someone just starting in GIScience. It is true that GIS incorporates many other aspects: temporal, logical and informational. As we have discussed in class, the end products of GIS work doesn’t have to be a map (contrary to popular belief). Montello’s argument that much of the spatial cognition of using GIS “really just involves perceiving patterns on a computer screen” is a strong statement. It has implications about the usefulness of incorporating GIS in K-12 education. It also has implications for what GIScientists are really contributing if using a GIS “does not involve much spatial memory, inference or reasoning.” It’s certainly not an inspiring thing to read about a discipline that I am becoming increasingly interested in. But it certainly does provide a challenge: to use GIS in a way that DOES involve more cognitive heavy-lifting.




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