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-01 - Metaphysics and ontology
  • Define common theories on what is “real,” such as realism, idealism, relativism, and experiential realism
  • Compare and contrast the ability of different theories to explain various situations
  • Recognize the commonalities of philosophical viewpoints and appreciate differences to enable work with diverse colleagues
  • Evaluate the influences of particular worldviews (including one’s own) on GIS practices
  • Justify the metaphysical theories with which you agree
  • Identify the ontological assumptions underlying the work of colleagues
FC-19 - Networks defined
  • Define different interpretations of “cost” in various routing applications
  • Describe networks that apply to specific applications or industries
  • Create a data set with network attributes and topology
  • Define the following terms pertaining to a network: Loops, multiple edges, the degree of a vertex, walk, trail, path, cycle, fundamental cycle
FC-35 - Openness
  • Assess the status of openness in the GIS&T field
  • In the role of a consultant or chief information officer, respond to a client’s or colleague’s question about the future prospects of open standards and systems in GIS&T
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of adopting open systems in the context of a local government
  • Differentiate “open standards,” “open source,” and “open systems”
FC-34 - Organizational models for coordinating GISs and/or program participants and stakeholders
  • Compare and contrast centralized, federated, and distributed models for managing information infrastructures
  • Describe the roles and relationships of GIS&T support staff
  • Exemplify how to make GIS&T relevant to top management
  • Describe different organizational models for coordinating GIS&T participants and stakeholders
  • Describe the stages of two different models of implementing a GIS within an organization
FC-33 - Organizational models for GIS management
  • Illustrate what functions a support or service center can provide to an organization using GIS&T
  • Analyze how using GIS&T as an integrating technology affects different models of management 
  • Describe how GIS&T can be used in the decision-making process in organizations dealing with natural resource management, business management, public management, or operations management 
  • Explain how GIS&T can be an integrating technology
  • Differentiate an enterprise system from a department-centered GIS
FC-04 - Perception and cognition of geographic phenomena
  • Describe the differences between real phenomena, conceptual models, and GIS data representations thereof
  • Explain the role of metaphors and image schema in our understanding of geographic phenomena and geographic tasks
  • Compare and contrast the symbolic and connectionist theories of human cognition and memory and their ability to model various cases
  • Compare and contrast theories of spatial knowledge acquisition (e.g., Marr on vision, Piaget on childhood, Golledge on wayfinding)
  • Explore the contribution of linguistics to the study of spatial cognition and the role of natural language in the conceptualization of geographic phenomena
FC-03 - Philosophical perspectives
  • Define common philosophical theories that have influenced geography and science, such as logical positivism, Marxism, phenomenology, feminism, and critical theory
  • Identify the philosophical views and assumptions underlying the work of colleagues
  • Describe a brief history of major philosophical movements relating to the nature of space, time, geographic phenomena and human interaction with it
  • Compare and contrast the kinds of questions various philosophies ask, the methodologies they use, the answers they offer, and their applicability to different phenomena
  • Evaluate the influences of one’s own philosophical views and assumptions on GIS&T practices
  • Defend or refute the statement, “All data are theory-laden”
FC-06 - Place and landscape
  • Explain how the concept of place encompasses more than just location
  • Evaluate the differences in how various parties think or feel differently about a place being modeled
  • Describe the elements of a sense of place or landscape that are difficult or impossible to adequately represent in GIS
  • Differentiate between space and place
  • Differentiate among elements of the meaning of a place that can or cannot be easily represented using geospatial technologies
  • Select a place or landscape with personal meaning and discuss its importance
  • Define the notions of cultural landscape and physical landscape
FC-28 - Primary and secondary data sources
  • Explain the distinction between primary and secondary data sources in terms of census data, cartographic data, and remotely sensed data
  • Describe a scenario in which data from a secondary source may pose obstacles to effective and efficient use
FC-30 - Private sector origins
  • Identify some of the key commercial activities that provided an impetus for the development of GIS&T
  • Differentiate the dominant industries using geospatial technologies during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s
  • Describe the contributions of McHarg and other practitioners in developing geographic analysis methods later incorporated into GIS
  • Evaluate the correspondence between advances in hardware and operating system technology and changes in GIS software
  • Describe the influence of evolving computer hardware and of private sector hardware firms such as IBM on the emerging GIS software industry
  • Discuss the emergence of the GIS software industry in terms of technology evolution and markets served by firms such as ESRI, Intergraph, and ERDAS