The Abduction of Geographic Information Science: Transporting Spatial Reasoning to the Realm of Purpose and Design

  • Helen Couclelis
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5756)


People intuitively understand that function and purpose are critical parts of what human-configured entities are about, but these notions have proved difficult to capture formally. Even though most geographical landscapes bear traces of human purposes, visibly expressed in the spatial configurations meant to serve these purposes, the capability of GIS to represent means-ends relationships and to support associated reasoning and queries is currently quite limited. This is because spatial thinking as examined and codified in geographic information science is overwhelmingly of the descriptive, analytic kind that underlies traditional science, where notions of means and ends play a negligible role. This paper argues for the need to expand the reach of formalized spatial thinking to also encompass the normative, synthetic kinds of reasoning characterizing planning, engineering and the design sciences in general. Key elements in a more comprehensive approach to spatial thinking would be the inclusion of abductive modes of inference along with the deductive and inductive ones, and the development of an expanded geographic ontology that integrates analysis and synthesis, form and function, landscape and purpose, description and design.


Synthetic Thinking Design Science Spatial Reasoning Human Purpose Spatial Concept 
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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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Couclelis
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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