Modeling and simulating geographies in a digital world
GIScience, conceptualized as scientific activity conducted in a GIS environment,
should not be exclusively data-driven, inductive, and theoretically naïve.
There should be scope for speculation, experimentation, a plurality of
theorisations; in short, GIScience should embrace imaginary or conceptual
geographies. Such geographies are already well established features of
the information society. A paradigmatic example is SimCity. But SimCity
embodies only one (highly contestable) theoretical position and represents
only one kind of simulation and one form of visualization.
Traditional views of GIS imbody a bookeeping approach to accounting for
space and a deterministic, usually single-framework, view of aggregation,
generalization, etc. in order to digest and interpret spatial data into
forecasts and causal interpretations. As use of GIS is pushed into policy
and planning levels - especially in arenas like city and regional planning
with pluralistic views of structure, interaction, and importance - such
a view is frustrating and difficult to incorporate. Can GIS technologies
help identify robust frameworks, forecasts, etc.? What technology is needed
to facilitate/moderate discussion. Juxtaposition, and visualization of
differing conceptualizations of space. One direction involves
drawing from research on the use of cellular automata simulations to help
discover emergent form and robust micro-behavioral models. Another involves
explicit attempts to visualize and/or address (a) stochastic elements of
spatial movement, boundaries, and interactions and (b) differences in spatial
The modeling and simulation initiative should first establish who is
doing what where - in modeling urban futures, global climate, ecological
systems, etc. - and it should get them to talk to each other.
It should explore the use and potential use of GIS-like models and
simulations in research, education, and intelligent play.
It should examine the roles of GIS-like models and simulations in theory
development and policy experimentation.
It should stimulate the development of participatory GIS and facilitate
conversations among groups with very different conceptions of urban (etc.)
futures and their determinants.
Progress on understanding how GIS can improve pluralistic and inclusive
planning processes depend upon a richer conceptualization of the multiple
ways in which geographies are discussed and brought into the planning and
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