“Scaling” as a verb

After reading through D.J. Marceau’s “The Scale Issue in the Social and Natural Sciences” paper, I’m left reflecting on some of the more abstract issues outlined at the beginning of the article. The paper does a good job of summing up the state of the issue of scale in academic geography as of 1999. This of course begs the question of what developments may have occurred around this field since then, and what effects that may have had on geospatial applications as GIS tech has become an everyday part of our lives.

I’m especially interested in this issue in relation to navigation apps and online mapping services for consumer use. The majority of the average person in the developed worlds interactions with geospatial technologies operate at two scales – that of a pedestrian and that of a vehicle, commuting a distance between 20 minutes and 2 hours. These scales are very specific, and we spend much of our lives operating within these bounds. I’m curious about how societal perceptions of space and distance have been affected by this pattern, and how our use of navigational aids may have locked us into certain mindsets about the scale of our lives and our communities.

I’m also curious about exploring the concept of “scaling” as a verb. It certainly has little to do with physical distance between things, as evidenced by the terms use in far more abstract conditions than the geographical sciences. A hierarchical worldview is implied by the use of the word scaling, and its application says to me a lot about how the user sees the world. What is the origin of hierarchical frameworks of organizing non-geographic information? Was is it inevitable that scientists structured the world this way? Did geographic hierarchical structures of thinking influence non-geographic conceptualizations of scale, or was it the other way around? The last question may be one of those chicken-and-egg ontological problems without a solution.

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