Mike Goodchild’s NSF talk ‘From Community Mapping to Critical Spatial Thinking’

Interesting talk from Mike Goodchild in a lecture at the US NSF entitled ‘From Community Mapping to Critical Spatial Thinking’. This talk is a good overview of VGI and links it to the understanding of spatial concepts and integrating them into teaching and research.

The interesting issue raised in the talk is the link between the ability of people to use spatial information and the development of spatial thinking. One vivid memory from the first State of the Map conference was a presentation from a person whowas trying to use a simple GPS receiver way beyond what it was capable of doing, and the tough questioning from the audience at the end, basically telling him that he got it wrong and needed to rethink his project. What was clear was that, for people who are engaged in active data collection and tools development, the critical spatial thinking and the understanding of the technology evolved. At the same time, the evidence from end-users of SatNav devices shows a reduction in spatial understanding due to the ‘tunnel vision’ that the user interface promotes.

Significantly, the number of the latter group is larger than the first group. So are we having shallow spatial understanding without critical spatial thinking?


2 thoughts on “Mike Goodchild’s NSF talk ‘From Community Mapping to Critical Spatial Thinking’

  1. Not exactly, the very presence of this easy to use SatNav devices and the explosion of spatial data in the web creates a good ecosystem for growth of spatial thinking.

    In the future, I see that spatial thinking will not be the exclusive realm of the geo-experts. As more and more ordinary people access spatial data, critical spatial thinking within themselves can be cultivated in many unexpected ways.


    1. Spatial thinking was never the exclusive realm of geo-experts, in my view. It is something that exist in all human societies, but can be developed and enhanced through studies and attention.
      However, I would be careful to argue that it’s clearly going to increase due to technology. Have a read of Satellite Culture: Global Positioning Systems, Inuit Wayfinding, and the Need for a New Account of Technology by Claudio Aporta and Eric Higgs in
      Current Anthropology, 46(5) Special Issue on Time, Society, and the Course of New Technologies (December 2005), pp. 729-753 – the link is not linear or simple…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.