Foundational Concepts

The foundational concepts are the elementary building blocks and context setting constraints of all other entries in the BoK. The latter encompass the philosophical and mathematical support for GIScience as well as data models, while the constituent elements include, among others, notions of scale, spatial data quality, and openness. This knowledge area is also the place to look for the origins and future of GIScience.

Topics in this Knowledge Area are listed thematically below. Existing topics are linked directly to their original (2006) or revised entries; forthcoming, future topics are italicized. 

Philosophical Basic Measures Social  
Metaphysics and Ontology Distance, Length, and Direction Primary and Secondary Data Sources  
Epistemology Shape Organizational Models for GIS Management  
Philosophical Perspectives Area and Region Organizational models for coordinating GISs and/or program participants and stakeholders  
Cognitive Proximity & Distance Decay  Openness  
Perceptions and Cognition of Geographic Phenomena Adjacency and Connectivity Origins  
From Concepts to Data Resolution Public Sector Origins  
Place and Landscape Geometric Primitives Private Sector Origins  
The Power of Maps Interrogating Geographic Information Academic Origins  
Learning from Experience Set Theory    
Domains of Geographic Information Structured Query Language (SQL) and Attribute Queries    
Space Spatial Queries    
Time Uncertainty    
Relationships between Space and Time Error     
Properties Problems of Scale and Zoning    
Networks Defined Thematic Accuracy    
Scale and Generalization Definitions within a Conceptual Model of Uncertainty    
Events and Processes      


FC-31 - Academic origins
  • Identify the key academic disciplines that contributed to the development of GIS&T
  • Evaluate the role that the Quantitative Revolution in geography played in the development of GIS
  • Describe the major research foci in GIS and related fields in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s
  • Evaluate the importance of the NCGIA and UCGIS in coalescing GIScience as a sub-field of GIS&T
  • Discuss the contributions of early academic centers of GIS&T research and development (e.g., Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics, UK Experimental Cartography Unit)
FC-18 - Adjacency and connectivity
  • List different ways connectivity can be determined in a raster and in a polygon dataset
  • Explain the nine-intersection model for spatial relationships
  • Demonstrate how adjacency and connectivity can be recorded in matrices
  • Calculate various measures of adjacency in a polygon dataset
  • Create a matrix describing the pattern of adjacency in a set of planar enforced polygons
  • Describe real world applications where adjacency and connectivity are a critical component of analysis
FC-16 - Area and Region
  • List reasons why the area of a polygon calculated in a GIS might not be the same as the real world object it describes
  • Demonstrate how the area of a region calculated from a raster data set will vary by resolution and orientation
  • Outline an algorithm to find the area of a polygon using the coordinates of its vertices
  • Explain how variations in the calculation of area may have real world implications, such as calculating density
  • Delineate regions using properties, spatial relationships, and geospatial technologies
  • Exemplify regions found at different scales
  • Explain the relationship between regions and categories
  • Identify the kinds of phenomena commonly found at the boundaries of regions
  • Explain why general-purpose regions rarely exist
  • Differentiate among different types of regions, including functional, cultural, physical, administrative, and others
  • Compare and contrast the opportunities and pitfalls of using regions to aggregate geographic information (e.g., census data)
  • Use established analysis methods that are based on the concept of region (e.g., landscape ecology)
  • Explain the nature of the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (MAUP)
FC-24 - Definitions within a conceptual model of uncertainty
  • Describe a stochastic error model for a natural phenomenon
  • Differentiate between the following concepts: vagueness and ambiguity, well defined and poorly defined objects, and fields or discord and non-specificity
  • Explain how the familiar concepts of geographic objects and fields affect the conceptualization of uncertainty
FC-14 - Distance, Length, and Direction
  • Describe several different measures of distance between two points (e.g., Euclidean, Manhattan, network distance, spherical)
  • Explain how different measures of distance can be used to calculate the spatial weights matrix
  • Explain why estimating the fractal dimension of a sinuous line has important implications for the measurement of its length
  • Explain how fractal dimension can be used in practical applications of GIS
  • Explain the differences in the calculated distance between the same two places when data used are in different projections
  • Outline the implications of differences in distance calculations on real world applications of GIS, such as routing and determining boundary lengths and service areas
  • Estimate the fractal dimension of a sinuous line
  • Describe operations that can be performed on qualitative representations of direction
  • Explain any differences in the measured direction between two places when the data are presented in a GIS in different projections
  • Compute the mean of directional data
  • Compare and contrast how direction is determined and stated in raster and vector data
  • Define “direction” and its measurement in different angular measures
FC-02 - Epistemology
  • Explain the notions of model and representation in science
  • Identify the epistemological assumptions underlying the work of colleagues
  • Bridge the differences in epistemological viewpoints to enable work with diverse colleagues
  • Define common theories on what constitutes knowledge, including positivism, reflectance-correspondence, pragmatism, social constructivism, and memetics
  • Justify the epistemological frameworks with which you agree
  • Recognize the influences of epistemology on GIS practices
  • Compare and contrast the ability of various theories to explain different situations
FC-25 - Error
  • Compare and contrast how systematic errors and random errors affect measurement of distance
  • Describe the causes of at least five different types of errors (e.g., positional, attribute, temporal, logical inconsistency, and incompleteness)
FC-05 - From concepts to data
  • Define the following terms: data, information, knowledge, and wisdom
  • Describe the limitations of various information stores for representing geographic information, including the mind, computers, graphics, and text
  • Transform a conceptual model of information for a particular task into a data model
FC-22 - Geometric primitives
  • Identify the three fundamental dimensionalities used to represent points, lines, and areas
  • Describe the data models used to encode coordinates as points, lines, or polygons
  • Critique the assumptions that are made in representing the world as points, lines, and polygons
  • Evaluate the correspondence between geographic phenomena and the shapes used to represent them
FC-32 - Learning from experience
  • Explain how knowledge of the history of the development of enterprise GIS can aid in an implementation process
  • Evaluate case studies of past GISs to identify factors leading to success and failure
  • Discuss the evolution of isolated GIS projects to enterprise GIS