People manipulate objects (but cultivate fields): Beyond the raster-vector debate in GIS

  • Helen Couclelis
Technical Papers Section I
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 639)


The ongoing debate in GIS regarding the relative merits of vector versus raster representations of spatial information is usually couched in technical terms. Yet the technical question of the most appropriate data structure begs the philosophical question of the most appropriate conceptualization of geographic space. The paper confronts this latter question in the context of the opposition between the “object” and “field” views of space. I suggest that GIS can turn a rather dry debate into a source of insights regarding the nature of its subject matter by learning from how people actually experience and deal with the geographic world. Human cognition indeed appears to make use of both the object and field views, but at different geographic scales, and for different purposes. These observations suggest a list of desiderata for the next round of thinking about spatial representation in GIS.


Geographic Scale Spatial Cognition Geographic Space Field View Geographic Entity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Couclelis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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