W J 15: GIS & GIS Applications I: Schuurman ch 1

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1. Readings

Schuurman ch. 1, “Geography Matters”

Introducing the Identities of GIS

The Success of GIS: is it now what Geography is?  Ubiquitous computing (example)

“This book is designed to inform the reader about precisely how GIS affects them as well as myriad social processes” (1)

  • a more human & social approach to technology, intellectual rather than only technological

The problem of GIS and geography: love/hate

  • GIS as one way of understanding “geography” – other approaches may be lost in the dust
  • quantitative vs. qualitative methods
  • epistemology: The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.  How we know.
  • ontology (what the world must be like in order to be known): in GIS, points, lines, areas… is that what the world is like? Or what it is like in order for us to understand it? What the world must be like to understand it with GIS?
  • Many approaches to the study of Geography (particularly in the cultural, social, human realm) are not that amenable to GIS.

The Identity of GIS: What Is It?

Delware County Ohio: DALIS Project: a tool for storing complex data; practical problem solving

  • what is where: data input, analysis, output

“PsychoGeography” maps / Mental Maps

  • a different what and where it is
  • weird stuff

Delaware Recreational Trails

  • what is most important when locating a recreational trail?
  • logic of quantitative methods for optimizing, or qualitative data used to anticipate how people will react (and why)?  Epistemological issues!
  • Delaware Trails research paper (PDF): more in a moment…

Where Does GIS Come From? Intellectual Antecedents

1930s) J.K. Wright: “The Terminology of Certain Map Symbols” (1944): point, line, area:  for map symbolization; basis of vector data

1960s) McHarg and the GIS “overlay” method: locating a road: pre-computer era

  • encode in a computer: technology and a particular way of knowing
  • what is not taken into account in this approach
  • spatial analysis: a means of extracting information (knowledge) from data
  • let a computer do what McHarg did
  • maps allow us to see raw data, or interact with data as we are analyzing it, or show the results of what we did
  • 1950s-60s: development of computational analysis and spatial analysis tools
  • wed technology to methods of knowing

What does GIS stand for?

  • definitions describe technology (systems; application): GIS(ystems) = GIS
    • hard/software for data input, analysis, output
    • “black box:” assume the methods in the software are legitimate, don’t question or think about what is going on in the box
  • definitions describing methods and process (science; theory): GIS(cience) = GISci
    • origin of the methods, critique of the methods, new methods
    • conceptual models of geographic space, sphericity of the real world vs. flat world of GIS
    • uncertainty and error, analytical methodologies, cognitive aspects.
    • also Participatory GIS, Critical Cartography & GIS: myriad of human/social issues
    • justifying and shaping an intellectual/academic role in GIS
  • myriad of issues of intellectual importance (that one may not think about at all if only approaching GIS as black box technology).
  • Understanding the World
    • quantitative vs. qualitative methods
    • epistemology: The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.  How we know.
    • ontology (what the world must be like in order to be known): in GIS, points, lines, areas… is that what the world is like? Or what it is like in order for us to understand it? What the world must be like to understand it with GIS?
    • Many approaches to the study of the world (and Geography) (particularly in the cultural, social, human realm) don’t seem amenable to study by GIS.
      • ex) certain kinds of data easier to collect and analyze and map, they seem more intuitive maybe because they are what we are used to doing.
      • ex) Historians reluctance to use GIS: Historical GIS
  • Maps (as part of GIS) complicate things even more: example) species range maps (what is a range? a species?)

Are maps propositions?

  • does geography (and its concepts/theories) drive GIS, or does GIS drive geography?  Debates in the field.

Data in, Information Out: Common Ground between GISys and GISci

GISys and GISci hard to differentiate in practice

  • ex) data classification: the categories we put things into
  • ex) house: what defines what a house is?  Is an apartment a house?  A dorm?  A condo?  A long-term residential hotel?  The kind of issue both Sys and Sci people have to deal with
  • ex) boundaries: complexity in drawing: neighborhood boundaries have to be drawn if you are using GIS, but where to draw them?  How do you define a neighborhood (which is a classification of place)
  • visualization: using intuition and knowledge to see patterns and connections:
    different epistemological approach – visual, not analytical.
  • Dr Snow example: Broad St. pump and cholera p. 15

Geography Matters

2. Your Introductions & Interesting GIS application (w/examples)

3. Next Time

  • see course schedule
  • after class: blog clean-up and questions
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