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This workshop will discuss the ontology of spatial thinking and reasoning, that is, what concepts, principles and methods do people with different backgrounds, disciplines, training, etc., use to think and reason about spatial aspects of problems? This topic has been discussed by at least three research communities during the past two decades: those conducting basic research in behavioral and cognitive science, those developing and evaluating software and information systems, and those designing and evaluating education programs in physical science, geography, or other fields. Our hope is to bring representatives from these three communities together in an effort to make progress on the goals of each community. In particular, the organizers are interested in theoretical bases for the development of curricula to foster spatial thinking in the sciences and humanities.

Some important relevant questions include:

  • Are there spatial concepts, principles, and reasoning tasks that are general across all fields, and if so, what are useful or appropriate ways to organize them?
    Some candidate frameworks are (1) knowledge domains (each of the natural sciences, engineering, geography, art, mathematics); (2) activity contexts (reasoning in space, about space and with space); (3) spatial scale (minuscule, figural, vista, environmental, gigantic); and (4) mental processes (mental rotation, pattern recognition, visualization, spatial memory).
  • How can we arrive at useful enumerations of each of these sets of concepts?
  • Is a unified ontology of spatial thinking and reasoning a feasible and worthwhile goal, and if so, for what purposes?
    The organizers of this workshop presume so, but allow that these are open questions.

These concerns have been of central interest to members of the COSIT community, and a COSIT meeting therefore seems an appropriate, even ideal, venue for an in-depth discussion of them.


Karl Grossner, Daniel Montello, Donald Janelle
University of California, Santa Barbara