Expanding Geographic Space

The term geo in geodesign can be simply defined as geographic space – space that is ref­erenced to the surface of the earth (geo-referenced).

In general, thinking of geographic space brings to mind a 2D geographic space (a flat map) or, for those who are a bit more advanced in their thinking, a 2.5D geographic space – that is, an undulating surface (a relief map). This thinking could also be extended to include 3D geographic space, providing the ability to geo-reference what lies below, on and above the surface of the earth, including what exists inside and outside buildings, as well as 4D geographic space, giving the added ability to geo-reference time-dependent information such as population growth or the migration of a toxic plume through a building. It can also be extended to 5D space, using the 5th dimension to refer to any number of performance indicators.

These extended views of geographic space (moving from 2D to 3D to 4D to 5D), coupled with the idea that most data, at some level, is spatial and that all types of spatial data (physical, biological, social, cultural, economic, urban, etc.) can be geo-referenced, lead to an expanded view of what is typically envisioned, or imagined, when referring to the geo portion of geodesign. This expanded view is embodied in a new concept that is beginning to emerge within the geospatial community … that of geo-scape.

Geo-scape is the planet’s life zone, including everything that lies below, on, and above the surface of the earth that supports life. Geo-scape expands the view of what constitutes the content of geography as well as the dimensional extent of the geographic space used to reference that content. As a consequence, it also expands the domain of geo in geodesign to include everything that supports or inhibits life.

Geo in geodesign thus refers to the full spectrum of the earth’s life support system and extends our thinking to move from

Land –> Land, water, air

Surface –> Below, on, above the surface

2D/2.5D –> 2D 2.5D 3D 4D 5D

Rural –> Rural and urban

Outside buildings –> Outside and inside buildings

Objects –> Objects, events, concepts, and relationships

Each of these moves, or shifts in our thinking, represents a significant transformation in the way people think about geography, geodesign and the use of geographic information systems (GIS).

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