A science of topography: Bridging the qualitative-quantitative divide

In Geographic Information Science and Mountain Geomorphology. Chichester, England: Springer-Praxis. pp. 75--100 (2004)
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The shape of the Earth's surface, its topography, is a fundamental dimension of the environment, shaping or mediating many other environmental flows or functions. But there is a major divergence in the way that topography is conceptualized in different domains. Topographic cartographers, information scientists, geomorphologists and environmental modelers typically conceptualize topographic variability as a continuous field of elevations or as some discrete approximation to such a field. Pilots, explorers, anthropologists, ecologists, hikers, and archeologists, on the other hand, typically conceptualize this same variability in terms of hills and valleys, mountains and plains, barrows and trenches, that is, as (special sorts of) objects, with locations, shapes, and often names of their own. In this chapter, we sketch an approach to bridging this fundamental gap in geographic information infrastructure.
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