Questions for discussion

Chapter 3 Scale and Projection


Is scale all in our heads?

Have you come across any studies that range across the 10 to 15 orders of magnitude referenced on pages 46-47?

What topics might demand consideration of such a wide range of scales? And what would the challenges be of studying such topics? How does working with scale hierarchies in this context help?

All things considered, does it really only make sense to think of scale as socially constructed? Does scale really exist independent of human observation? Note that this is also an inference we might draw from the giscience perspectives on scale presented by Montello1 and Couclelis2, discussed on pages 57-60.

Would geography be better off ‘without scale’? Some of the leading protagonists in the ‘scale debates’ of the 1990s, eventually argued for an abandonment of the concept of scale.3 What would be the implications of such a move?

Zoomable web-maps are maps without scale. Discuss! Also for discussion: explicitly relating scale and map projection in the way it is done in this chapter might strike some as a bit of a reach. What do you think?

Is map generalization just ‘lying with maps’? Mark Monmonier suggests in How to Lie with Maps that cartographica generalisation is unavoidable and inevitably makes maps misleading.4 Is lying an appropriate framework for thinking about map generalisation?

© 2023 David O’Sullivan


  1. Montello DR. 1993. Scale and multiple psychologies of space. In AU Frank and I Campari (eds) Spatial Information Theory: A Theoretical Basis for GIS, pages 312-321. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 716. Springer.↩︎

  2. Couclelis H. 1992. People manipulate objects (but cultivate fields): Beyond the raster-vector debate in GIS. In AU Frank, I Campari, and U Formentini (eds) Theories and Methods of Spatio-Temporal Reasoning in Geographic Space, pages 65–77. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 639. Springer.↩︎

  3. Marston SA, JP Jones III, and K Woodward. 2005. Human geography without scale. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 30(4) 416–432.↩︎

  4. Monmonier MS. 2018. How to Lie with Maps. 3rd edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.↩︎