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-26 - Problems of scale and zoning
  • Describe the concept of ecological fallacy, and comment on its relationship with the MAUP
  • Describe the MAUP and its affects on correlation, regression, and classification
  • Describe the modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP) associated with aggregation of data collected at different scales and its affect on spatial autocorrelation
FC-10 - Properties
  • Formalize attribute values and domains in terms of set theory
  • Develop alternative forms of representations for situations in which attributes do not adequately capture meaning
  • Define Stevens’ four levels of measurement (i.e., nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio)
  • Describe particular geographic phenomena in terms of attributes
  • Determine the proper uses of attributes based on their domains
  • Characterize the domains of attributes in a GIS, including continuous and discrete, qualitative and quantitative, absolute and relative
  • Recognize situations and phenomena in the landscape which cannot be adequately represented by formal attributes, such as aesthetics
  • Compare and contrast the theory that properties are fundamental (and objects are human simplifications of patterns thereof) with the theory that objects are fundamental (and properties are attributes thereof)
  • Recognize attribute domains that do not fit well into Stevens’ four levels of measurement such as cycles, indexes, and hierarchies
FC-17 - Proximity and distance decay
  • Describe real world applications where distance decay is an appropriate representation of the strength of spatial relationships (e.g., shopping behavior, property values)
  • Explain the rationale for using different forms of distance decay functions
  • Explain how a semi-variogram describes the distance decay in dependence between data values
  • Outline the geometry implicit in classical “gravity” models of distance decay
  • Plot typical forms for distance decay functions
  • Write typical forms for distance decay functions
  • Write a program to create a matrix of pair-wise distances among a set of points
  • Describe real world applications where distance decay would not be an appropriate representation of the strength of spatial relationships (e.g., distance education, commuting, telecommunications)
FC-29 - Public sector origins
  • Identify some of the key federal agencies and programs that provided the impetus for the development of GIS&T
  • Explain how the federalization of land management in Canada led to the development of the Canadian Geographic Information System in the 1960s
  • Discuss the role of the U.S. Census Bureau in contributing to the development of the U.S. geospatial industry
  • Discuss the role of the U.S. Geological Survey in contributing to the development of the U.S. geospatial industry
  • Describe the mechanical and computerized technologies used by civilian and military mapping agencies between World War II and the advent of GIS
  • Trace the history of the relationship between the intelligence community and the geospatial industry
  • Compare and contrast the initiatives of various countries to move their national mapping activities to geospatial data
  • Describe the role of NASA and the Landsat program in promoting development of digital image processing and raster GIS systems
FC-09 - Relationships between space and time
  • Discuss common prepositions and adjectives (in any particular language) that signify either spatial or temporal relations but are used for both kinds, such as “after” or “longer”
  • Describe different types of movement and change
  • Understand the physical notions of velocity and acceleration which are fundamentally about movement across space through time
  • Identify various types of geographic interactions in space and time
  • Compare and contrast the characteristics of spatial and temporal dimensions
FC-21 - Resolution
  • Illustrate and explain the distinction between resolution, precision, and accuracy
  • Discuss the implications of the sampling theorem (? = 0.5 d) to the concept of resolution
  • Differentiate among the spatial, spectral, radiometric, and temporal resolution of a remote sensing instrument
  • Explain how resampling affects the resolution of image data
  • Discuss the advantages and potential problems associated with the use of minimum mapping unit (MMU) as a measure of the level of detail in land use, land cover, and soils maps
  • Illustrate and explain the distinctions between spatial resolution, thematic resolution, and temporal resolution
  • Illustrate the impact of grid cell resolution on the information that can be portrayed
  • Relate the concept of grid cell resolution to the more general concept of “support” and granularity
  • Evaluate the implications of changing grid cell resolution on the results of analytical applications by using GIS software
  • Evaluate the ease of measuring resolution in different types of tessellations
FC-11 - Set Theory
  • Describe set theory
  • Explain how logic theory relates to set theory
  • Perform a logic (set theoretic) query using GIS software
  • Explain how set theory relates to spatial queries
FC-15 - Shape
  • Identify situations in which shape affects geometric operations
  • Develop a method for describing the shape of a cluster of similarly valued points by using the concept of the convex hull
  • Develop an algorithm to determine the skeleton of polygons
  • Find centroids of polygons under different definitions of a centroid and different polygon shapes
  • Calculate several different shape indices for a polygon dataset
  • Compare and contrast different shape indices, include examples of applications to which each could be applied
  • Explain what is meant by the convex hull and minimum enclosing rectangle of a set of point data
  • Exemplify situations in which the centroid of a polygon falls outside its boundary
  • Explain why the shape of an object might be important in analysis
FC-07 - Space
  • Differentiate between absolute and relative descriptions of location
  • Define the four basic dimensions or shapes used to describe spatial objects (i.e., points, lines, regions, volumes)
  • Discuss the contributions that different perspectives on the nature of space bring to an understanding of geographic phenomenon
  • Justify the discrepancies between the nature of locations in the real world and representations thereof (e.g., towns as points)
  • Select appropriate spatial metaphors and models of phenomena to be represented in GIS
  • Develop methods for representing non-cartesian models of space in GIS
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the use of cartesian/metric space as a basis for GIS and related technologies
  • Differentiate between common-sense, Cartesian/metric, relational, relativistic, phenomenological, social constructivist, and other theories of the nature of space
FC-13 - Spatial queries
  • Demonstrate the syntactic structure of spatial and temporal operators in SQL
  • State questions that can be solved by selecting features based on location or spatial relationships
  • Construct a query statement to search for a specific spatial or temporal relationship
  • Construct a spatial query to extract all point objects that fall within a polygon
  • Compare and contrast attribute query and spatial query