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 in regular font and linked directly to their original entries (published in 2006; these contain only Learning Objective). Entries that have been expanded and revised are in bold. 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 Spatial Autocorrelation Academic Origins  
Learning from Experience Interrogating Geographic Information    
Domains of Geographic Information Set Theory    
Space Structured Query Language (SQL) and Attribute Queries    
Time Spatial Queries    
Relationships between Space and Time Uncertainty    
Properties Error    
Networks Defined Problems of Scale and Zoning    
Scale and Generalization Thematic Accuracy    
Events and Processes Definitions within a Conceptual Model of Uncertainty    

 

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

Shape is important in GI Science because the shape of a geographical entity can have far-reaching effects on significant characteristics of that entity. In geography we are mainly concerned with two-dimensional shapes such as the outlines of islands, lakes, and administrative areas, but three-dimensional shapes may become important, for example in the treatment of landforms. Since the attribute of shape has infinitely many degrees of freedom, there can be no single numerical measure such that closely similar shapes are assigned close numerical values. Therefore different shape descriptors have been proposed for different purposes. Although it is generally desirable for a shape descriptor to be scale invariant and rotation invariant, not all proposed descriptors satisfy both these requirements. Some methods by which a shape is described using a single number are described, followed by a discussion of moment-based approaches. It is often useful to represent a complex shape by means of a surrogate shape of simpler form which facilitates storage, manipulation, and comparison between shapes; some examples of commonly used shape surrogates are presented. Another important task is to compare different shapes to determine how similar they are. The article concludes with a discussion of a number of such measures of similarity.

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-37 - Spatial Autocorrelation

The scientific term spatial autocorrelation describes Tobler’s first law of geography: everything is related to everything else, but nearby things are more related than distant things. Spatial autocorrelation has a:

  • past characterized by scientists’ non-verbal awareness of it, followed by its formalization;
  • present typified by its dissemination across numerous disciplines, its explication, its visualization, and its extension to non-normal data; and
  • an anticipated future in which it becomes a standard in data analytic computer software packages, as well as a routinely considered feature of space-time data and in spatial optimization practice.

Positive spatial autocorrelation constitutes the focal point of its past and present; one expectation is that negative spatial autocorrelation will become a focal point of its future.

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