Ontology and geographic kinds

In T. Poiker & N. Chrisman (eds.), Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium on Spatial Data Handling, 308–320. International Geographic Union (1998)
Abstract
An ontology of geographic kinds is designed to yield a better understanding of the structure of the geographic world, and to support the development of geographic information systems that are conceptually sound. This paper first demonstrates that geographical objects and kinds are not just larger versions of the everyday objects and kinds previously studied in cognitive science. Geographic objects are not merely located in space, as are the manipulable objects of table-top space. Rather, they are tied intrinsically to space, and this means that their spatial boundaries are in many cases the most salient features for categorization. The ontology presented here will accordingly be based on topology (the theory of boundary, contact and separation) and on mereology (the theory of extended wholes and parts). Geographic reality comprehends mesoscopic entities, many of which are best viewed as shadows cast onto the spatial plane by human reasoning and language. Because of this, geographic categories are much more likely to show cultural differences in category definitions than are the manipulable objects of table-top space.
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