Visualization in Cyber Geography

Visualization in Cyber Geography:

Reconsidering Cartography’s Concept of Visualization in Current User Centric Cybergeographic Cosmology

By Troel Degn Johansson

Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis University College London 1-19 Torrington Place Gower Street London WC1E6BT


This article discusses some epistemological problems of a semiotic and cybernetic character in two current scientific cosmologies in the study of geographic information systems (GIS) with special reference to the concept of visualization in modern cartography.

Setting off from Michael Batty’s prolegomena for a virtual geography and Michael Goodchild’s “Human-Computer-Reality-Interaction” as the field of a new media convergence and networking of GIS-computation of geo-data, the paper outlines preliminarily a common field of study, namely that of cybernetic geography, or just “cyber-geography) owing to the principal similarities with second order cybernetics. Relating these geographical cosmologies to some of Science’s dominant, historical perceptions of the exploring and appropriating of Nature as an “inventory of knowledge”, the article seeks to identify some basic ontological and epistemological dimensions of cybernetic geography and visualization in modern cartography.

The points made is that a generalized notion of visualization understood as the use of maps, or more precisely as cybergeographic GIS-thinking seems necessary as an epistemological as well as a methodological prerequisite to scientific knowledge in cybergeography. Moreover do these generalized concept seem to lead to a displacement of the positions traditionally held by the scientist and lay-man citizen, that is not only in respect of the perception of the matter studied, i.e. the field of geography, but also of the manner in which the scientist informs the lay-man citizen in the course of action in the public participation in decision making; a displacement that seems to lead to a more critical, or perhaps even quasi-scientific approach as concerns the lay-man user.

Full Article

Biographical note:

Troels Degn Johansson was an academic visitor at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London in the autumn 1999.

He is a Ph.D. Scholar at the Danish Forest and Landscape Research Institute, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, at the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Denmark. He did an MA in Film and Media Studies at the University of Copenhagen. During 1996-99 he was associated the Department of Film & Media Studies as an Assistant Professor. TDJ is currently involved in a research project on web-based 3D-visualization of landscape change with special reference to public planning communication. This project forms part of the Changing Landscapes-programme, Centre for Strategic Studies in Cultural Environment, Nature and Landscape History (1997-2001), the Strategic Enviromental Research Programme of Denmark.

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