GIScience: Theory and Concepts

GIScience or Geographic Information Science is a a multidisciplinary field that utilizes spatial data analysis and technology to understand and solve complex geographic problems.

GIScience provides the conceptual and theoretical foundation for Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIScience focuses on the theories, methods, and principles behind spatial data analysis, while GIS is the practical application of those concepts through the use of software tools and technologies to capture, store, analyze, and visualize geospatial data. In other words, GIScience lays the groundwork for understanding the fundamental concepts and principles of spatial analysis, which are then implemented in GIS software for practical use.

In this seminar the focus was set on discussing related literature from GIScience and cognate fields, encouraging to reflect on the field itself rather than only on its methods, exploring the limits of what we can predict about future developments from the past and current perspective.

The first part of the seminar was concerned with the past and current state of GIScience. This did include the foundations of GIScience, its challenges, and its achievements, as well as its limitations and the existing critique of this field of science. After that, the relation of GIScience to cognate fields at the examples of Network Science, Cognitive Science, Philosophy, and Geography was explored, including the in‐depth study of similarities and differences between GIScience and these cognate fields, which is important in the light that most of what makes up GIScience is rooted in this interdisciplinarity. Finally, a seminar paper was developed reflecting a selected topic and conducting a written discourse.

Throughout the the course of the seminar interesting discussions were held circling around theoretical and at times philosophical questions. The seminar began with the influential paper ‚Geographical information science‘ of Goodchild (1992) that first coined the term GIScience, circled around philosophical questions such as ‚Do mountains exist?‘ which raised the question to what extent semantic concepts such as mountains can be clearly demarcated and defined and to what extent such understandings differ from culture to culture and region to region, and ended with the concept of the digital Earth, first defined by then US vice president Al Gore in 1998. The discussions of the papers did help understanding complex concepts often found geoinformatics and showed very clearly that GIScience is a very multidisciplinary field with many links to other related fields.

Seminar Paper: GIS and VR/AR

Topic of the final seminar paper was ‚GIS using Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) instead of computer screens – an opportunity to present geographical information in cognitively more approachable ways?‘ which focused on the potential of new and immersive interfaces for conveying spatial information to the user.

Example of VR support for geodata visualization in the urban planning context: ESRI CityEngine VR

While the concepts of VR and AR are not new, recent developments in hardware and software that have lead to a new wave of cheaper and lighter devices revived the excitement within the sciences and industry to realise the potential of these technologies. The aim of this paper was to provide an overview of potential opportunities as well as risks and challenges of VR/AR technologies for the field of GIScience, starting with the definition of the virtuality continuum and introduction of the concepts of immersion and presence, leading to the potential for GIScience with selected areas of application and related risks and challenges in technology, concepts, ethics and privacy as well as health. The final section was centred around selected examples of (early) implementation in pipeline management, emergency management, and urban planning. The paper ended with a conclusion and outlook.

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