sliding into scales; i didn’t like the Atkinson & Tate paper very much, but still love scale!

Scale is something people from lots of backgrounds pay attention to. Ecologists, biologists, geographers, and physicists all wrap their data into ‘packages’ of what they perceive to appropriate – in terms of what their data represent, the framework by which their data was collected and managed, and the question they seek to answer. By packages, I mean a sort of conceptualization of the data and the underlying model it is situated in / in which it is embedded. While many fields are entangled with scale, GIScientists have determined this is their time to shine – to explain core realities common to all spatial problems.

Some quick things that caught my attention:

  • the importance of scale in geography is based on the link between scale and modelling;
    1. makes me think about how geocomplexity is defined by geo-simulation
  • the notion of a spatial framework that determines what data is and what it represents by being the ‘strategy’ by which all information is ‘filtered’;
    1. the authors talk about how we see with our brains, not our eyes: aren’t we all just socially-informed machines?
    2. sort of fits into the narrative (geo)complexity scientists push: that we are embedded in a complex system worth modelling
  • the idea that something can be homogenous at one scale, and heterogenous at another;

The five categories presented in Atkinson and Tate to breakdown and understand what exactly Spatial Scale is are helpful, although I felt lost in discussion of spatial variation & stationarity. Something I thought I would be able to grasp quickly since my true geographical love is movement. But no. Still lost.

In the work I get to do with Prof. Sengupta, we explore how landscape heterogeneity affects animal behaviour selection and therefore determines movement. It’s neat that we get to wrangle with many of the concepts Atkinson and Tate discuss: collecting data at some frequency; rescaling data to represent what we want it to represent; considering spatial extent; and dealing with spatial dependence (by mostly not having dealt with it). Right now, we are exploring movements of a troop of olive baboons in Kenya. I wonder how our representative trajectories would look at half the sampling frequency – would we still be able to employ ‘behaviour-selection’ in the way we are trying? I don’t know – much to learn from the ‘is-it-a-science-or-isn’t-it’ science.

I perceive Professional Geographer to be a journal of decent quality in the field – for not many reasons beyond that they are found in our lab-space, scattered amongst old machines, super-powered servers, and sensors not sensing yet. Going into the reading with this perception, I was left disappointed. For a paper taking issue with how data is represented, communicated, and handled; there is failure to really understand what the authors are doing – maybe mostly on my part, but there is certainly some shared culpability. While scale is indeed complicated, and discussing it can be hard and technical, I think the authors have failed to simplify and communicate their field in what is meant to be a paper for all geographers to engage with. Obfuscation and lack-of-transparency will kill this field.

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