Mapping Kinds in GIS and Cartography

In Catherine Kendig (ed.), Natural Kinds and Classification in Scientific Practice. Routledge (forthcoming)
Authors
Rasmus Winther
University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract
Geographic Information Science (GIS) is an interdisciplinary science aiming to detect and visually represent patterns in spatial data. GIS is used by businesses to determine where to open new stores and by conservation biologists to identify field study locations with relatively little anthropogenic influence. Products of GIS include topographic and thematic maps of the Earth’s surface, climate maps, and spatially referenced demographic graphs and charts. In addition to its social, political, and economic importance, GIS is of intrinsic philosophical interest due to its methodological richness and because it is an instructive analogue to other sciences. This chapter works towards a philosophy of GIS and cartography, or PGISC. In particular, it examines practices of classifying geographic space, objects, and relations. By focusing on the use of natural kinds in data modeling and map generalization practices, I show how the making and using of kinds is contextual, fallible, plural, and purposive.
Keywords Natural Kinds  Cartography  GIS  Models  Abstraction
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