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id ddss9416
authors Campbell, Noel and O'Reilly, Thomas
year 1994
title GIS: Science or Tool - The Built Environment Perspective
source Second Design and Decision Support Systems in Architecture & Urban Planning (Vaals, the Netherlands), August 15-19, 1994
summary This paper attempts to locate GIS in the context of the built environment professions, rather than in the context of computer science, recognizing the integrated but limiting approach of viewingGIS from a strictly computer / spatial science perspective. The paper reviews the conflicts and tensions appearing in the GIS debate seeing them as reflecting the differences between the perceptions and interests of software developers and those of the professions. The "spatial science versus professional tool" dilemma is therefore critically assessed. Science is identified as the dominant paradigm within which GIS development has taken place. This encompasses the emphasis on GIS as spatial science; the interest in particular forms of spatial analysis; a narrow approach to the idea of information; the debate about the appropriate emphasis on the location for GIS in undergraduate education. The interests and activities of the professions cannot be encompassed within the pre-existing science paradigm. The paper identifies the interest the professions have had in broad geographical issues (as distinct from narrow spatial issues). It recognizes the different conventions and procedures used in recording and using geographical information, not all of them objective or scientific. It views the computer, not as a "scientific engine", but as a modern medium for representing and analyzing information. This includes storage and analysis, both internally (algorithmic manipulation) and outside (qualitative manipulation, beyond formal -"computer"- logic). This approach suggests a framework for research of a nature more sympathetic to the needs of the built environment professions in particular and an agenda which would include an examination of: (i) the conventions and procedures used in the professions to collect, store and process information and how these translate to computer technology; (ii) the types of software used and the way procedures may be accommodated by combining and integrating packages; (iii) the dynamism of GIS development (terms such as "dedicated", "mainframe", "PC-based", "distributed", "pseudo-", etc. are identified as indicativeof the need for professions-based approaches to GIS development); (iv) a critique of "information" (modelling of information flows within the professions, may yield valuable insights into the (modelling of information flows within the professions , may yield valuable insights into the similarity of requirements for a variety of "workplace scenarios").
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