On Kuhn’s (2012) Core concepts of spatial information for transdisciplinary research

Similarly to Mark’s (2003) paper, Kuhn advocates for a conceptual consensus on spatial information – what it is and how it can be used – by proposing a set of ten core concepts of the field intended for specialists and non-specialists alike. Kuhn also argues along the same line as Mark in that GIScience transcends the boundaries of a single discipline. Spatial information is what bridges separate fields, it integrates multiple scientific disciplines and ties them with other stakeholders in social policy making. Given its essential role, a consensus amongst experts of what spatial information actually is is needed to then open the field to non-specialists and be conducive for transdisciplinary research.

One of the main challenges Kuhn briefly mentions is the need to “map the concepts across disciplines.” Concepts are human constructs and vary from one discipline to another, in what they mean, what they are used for, or how they are used. Especially in trandisciplinary research, these concept variations can become very confusing and inhibit successful collaboration. For a paper that is intended to be intelligible to non-specialists from various disciplines with different backgrounds, I find that Kuhn offers a somewhat narrow-minded definition of each concept – that is, from the perspective of the GIScience field –without necessarily acknowledging any possible disparity with other disciplines’ understanding of the concept. While I do agree that building a foundational ontology of spatial information drawn and complemented from existing ones from other disciplines could offer conceptual clarity, I believe this paper needs more practical elaborations on each concept and less abstract conceptual definitions to be understood by non-specialists.


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