What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our
method of questioning
Both geography and GIS deal with the Earth's surface
and modern GIS can learn from the spatial analysis tradition in the discipline
of geography. For example, Dr. Snow's analysis of cholera cases in London
in the 1850s and Ian McHarg's overlay method in landscape ecology - both
originally applied by hand - have been copied by GI analysts. Likewise
thinking spatially is nothing new. It requires us to construct questions
of a geographical nature and then to build logical relationships between
our questions and methods of processing geographical information.
In this topic you will explore two issues. The first
issue concerns how we can use space to tie things together. You will investigate
ideas of spatial cognition, geographical enquiry and logical reasoning.
It has been said that people have produced three main ways of communicating
ideas: language, music and maps. Maps have specific qualities and power
which are not present in other forms of communication. Ideas can be expressed
in a map form which simply aren't possible in other media. In practice
this requires specific skills to create and interpret maps. Map reading
and photointerpretation (skills much undervalued and neglected in recent
years) are skills which some people seem incapable of mastering. Others
find them natural and are able to 'read' the world through a map - and
just as easily translate the real world to a cartographical representation.
The second issue considers how the ideas expressed in
spatial thinking are formalised and put into practice in GIS. For example,
the processes and consequences of transforming our 3D world into 2D maps.
This transformation distorts the geography we are interested in. As well
as projection systems you must also think about other mathematical properties
of our data such as scale and the geometries used to represent entities.
How you implement these ideas impacts on everything you will do with GIS.