Thoughts on “Do geospatial ontologies perpetuate Indigenous assimilation? (Reid & Sieber, 2019) “

This article uncovers the fact that there is no universality in the field of ontology. This means there is no one formalized rule towards geospatial topology. The emergence of indigenous ontology means that people started to realize that people with different cultural background can percept the land and environment differently. This realization is important because new technologies which involves citizen science and crowdsourcing have emerged greatly, and those technologies might want to figure out a way to formalize people’s perception towards the land and its surrounding environment. Take OpenStreetMap as an example, they want every contributor to have a consensus about what is the boundary of a river or what can be labeled as residential area. However, indigenous communities do not categorize geographic entities in distinct categories, which means their understanding of a river can be different and both physically and spiritually. So they might find it hard to contribute to OpenStreetMap since they might perceive river different than western communities.

I think this realization of no universality in geospatial ontology is important worldwide. Although I do not have previous research about indigenous groups, I can very much relate it to China’s diverse ethnic background. China has 55 minority ethnic groups and one majority group. The majority groups covers 91% of the nation’s population, and the rest 9% was divided into 55 distinct ethnic groups. The minority groups each have their different understandings towards entities and some of them have completely different language systems. This difference would made even one nation hard to address universality in ontologies. Other than China, some of the other Eastern countries and territories also have a considerable amount of ethnic groups.

So how do we address each different culture and context worldwide when there is not only indigenous communities but also great number of ethnic groups? If there is some overlap of ontologies between different groups, how can we make use of it? As it is mentioned in the article: “Indigenous people can be directly involved in the shaping and crafting of ontologies.”, can ontologies be quantifiable or in other words be “crafted” if it involve spiritual or philosophical meanings? What might happens if indigenous ontologies are contradict with conventional ontologies?

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