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FC-31 - Academic Developments of GIS&T in English-speaking Countries: a Partial History

The constellation of science and technology that is now considered a unit (Geographic Information Science and Technology – GIS&T) has emerged from many source disciplines through many divergent and convergent pasts in different times and places. This narrative limits itself to the perspective of the English-speaking community, leaving other regions for a separate chapter As in the case of many technical developments in the second half of the twentieth century, academic institutions played a key (though far from exclusive) role in innovation and risk-taking. In a number of locations, academic innovators tried out new technology for handling geographic information, beginning as early as the 1960s. Three institutions (University of Washington, Laboratory for Computer Graphics – Harvard University, and Experimental Cartography Unit – Royal College of Art (UK)) deserve particular treatment as examples of the early innovation process. Their innovations may look crude by current standards, but they laid some groundwork for later developments. Academic institutions played a key role in innovation over the past decades, but the positioning of that role has shifted as first government, then commercial sectors have taken the lead in certain aspects of GIS&T. Current pressures on the academic sector may act to reduce this role.

FC-02 - Epistemology

Epistemology is the lens through which we view reality. Different epistemologies interpret the earth and patterns on its surface differently. In effect, epistemology is a belief system about the nature of reality that, in turn, structures our interpretation of the world. Common epistemologies in GIScience include (but are not limited by) positivism and realism. However, many researchers are in effect pragmatists in that they choose the filter that best supports their work and a priori hypotheses. Different epistemologies – or ways of knowing and studying geography – result in different ontologies or classification systems. By understanding the role of epistemology, we can better understand different ways of representing the same phenomena.