Thoughts on CyberGIS Software: Synthetic review and Integration Roadmap (Wang et al. 2013)

I think the density of jargon employed in this paper makes for a very high barrier for comprehension.The authors constructed many diagrams, models, and frameworks to explain how spatial data is currently processed in software environments, but I found even this descriptive models (Figures 1, 4) to be highly abstract, and the labels were not explanatory. They seem at once highly specialized and lacking any descriptive power- a true feat. I am clearly not the intended audience of the paper, with my limited knowledge of software architecture.

One of the major themes of the paper was the need for interoperability amongst different spatial data types. The authors put a lot of emphasis on the power of cyberGIS to analyze big data sets and solve complex problems, and the need for data to adhere to common guidelines seems paramount to that goal.

The goal of the paper seemed to be to review existing softwares that deal with geospatial analyses and critique the current methods and modularity through which they operate. But they themselves concede that we “do not yet have a well-defined set of fundamental tasks that can be distributed and shared.” Thus, there is necessarily a lot of overlap between the functions of the different CI/SAM tools that are in use. This redundancy and lack of efficiency seemed to be an issue for the authors.

It seemed contradictory to me that of the six objectives outlined for the CyberGIS Software Integration for Sustained Geospatial Information, at least half of them had primarily social objectives, whereas the discussion of human usability, barriers to learning, social implications of the integration of these various methods, was hardly ever mentioned. For example, the authors state engagement of communities through participative approaches, allowing for sharing, contribution and learning. Yet there is no discussion about how the integration of technologies discussed here would make those objectives more feasible, aside from interoperability. There was a reference to a “stress test” in which 50 users performed viewshed analysis to test the ability a the “Gateway stage” of software development, but this was a brief mention of humans in an otherwise immensely abstract and theoretical discussion of various issues in cyber-infrastructure.

I would really like to hear from an expert in this field to ascertain whether they felt this paper made a valuable contribution, or answered a pressing question, or even clarified the goals and future of their field.

  • futureSpock


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