Scale (Goodchild & Proctor 1997)

Prior to reading this paper I went in knowing scale was a key concept of geography, and one of much debate. After reading Goodchild & Proctor 1997 however, I feel this was an understatement. The authors extensively cover a much needed recap of traditional cartography, and the initial concreteness of scale and the common metrics used (i.e. buildings aren’t typically shown at a 1:25000 scale). I found this part especially interesting as it’s something that I never encountered in my GIS/geography classes, even though they’re key concepts in cartography. This becomes especially interesting when paired with their allusion to current day GIS acting as a visual representation of a large database (like OSM), and interestingly I thought of how OSM must have studied these concepts in creating their online mapping platform, as to only incorporate points of interest at a certain zoom level versus streets. The paper then goes to explain how concepts as such are needed in modern day digital maps in the form of Minimum Mapping Units (MMU), though how issues like raster resolution begin to define scale as the smallest denomination of measurement.

Another key point to the paper was the use of metaphors to describe how scale comes to play in traditional versus modern maps, and how is often redefined (such as in fields like geostatistics). I feel that the term scale should be kept as simple as possible to avoid running into issues like the modifiable areal unit problem, and appropriateness of scale. Scale will always be an important part of GIScience, as it’s inherantly associated with distance and visualizing geographic space, and I feel that extensive research into issues of scale like this paper will be needed in the future when mapping goes further and further from its traditional cartographic roots, into the new realms of GIS like VGI, location based services, and augmented reality.


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