If information is thought of as answers to questions, any information system would ideally provide means of asking and answering questions. Yet, GIScience appears to lack theories of what such questions are and how they can be answered. This GIScience 2018 workshop will initiate discussion on what spatial questions can be asked, based on any choice of core concepts of spatial information, and how to answer them through core computations suggested by such concepts. It will explore a question-based approach to spatial computation and will be a first attempt to specify core computations of spatial information that are suitable for question answering.

The previous and related AGILE 2018 workshop launches a conversation about a conceptual basis for teaching geospatial technologies, regardless of learners’ disciplinary backgrounds. This GIScience 2018 workshop, as a follow up, will investigate how to ask and answer spatial questions using this conceptual basis and its computational power.


Existing GIS support spatial computation by procedures confining the types of questions that can be asked and the ease of asking them, without an underlying theory of possible spatial questions. A GIScience worthy of its name would seem to be obliged to provide such a theory, if information is understood as answers to questions. Using and explaining the idea of core concepts of spatial information as a conceptual basis to model spatial questions and computations, this workshop focuses on theories of what spatial questions can be asked, and how they can be answered computationally. The aspiration is to move spatial computing to the level of conceptualizations, hiding the complexities of data models from the user, and to promote the design of declarative spatial queries. Workshop participants are encouraged to contribute real world spatial problems and to experiment at the workshop with translating the questions raised by the problems into core computations.

This workshop will explore the type of transdisciplinary questions that can be answered with a GIS, with the goal of making GIS more accessible to a wider audience across the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts. We attempt to show how the choice of core concepts and core computations can bridge the gap between user questions and software commands.


We encourage submissions containing specific domain problems and resulting questions that can be answered using a GIS. Participants will engage in discussions about transforming these questions into sets of core computations. We invite submissions that describe recent research that fits the general theme of question-based spatial computation.

A special issue, with the same scope as the workshop, will be targeted for a venue to be determined at the workshop. Submissions to the special issue may be made by workshop participants as well as others interested in the theme. Participation in the workshop does not guarantee acceptance in the special issue, and all submissions will be subject to a review process that follows the selected venue’s standards. The full papers for the special issue will be due after the workshop, allowing for inclusion of feedback and new insights gained at the workshop.

Submissions of short (1500 words) workshop discussion papers should be submitted through EasyChair:

In your submissions, please discuss the following themes:

  • challenges in question-based spatial computing
  • suggestions for core concepts and computations

Submissions will be the basis of presentations, informing workshop discussion topics.


The half-day workshop will start with presentations by organizers and participants. Breakout groups and discussions on how to enable question-based spatial computing will follow, and the concluding session will summarize the outcomes and decide on a suitable means of publication.

Session I (1.5 hours)

  • Workshop overview and participant self-introductions
  • Introductory topic presentations by the organizers
  • Participant lightning talks on spatial questions and core computations

Coffee Break (0.5 hours)

Session II (2 hours)

  • Open Discussion
    • How do user questions translate into core computations?
    • List specific gaps between user questions and tools
  • Breakout group discussions
    • Discuss core computations applied to the concept of your choice
    • Discuss how to translate spatial problems to questions
    • Discuss how core computations can answer the questions
  • Concluding discussion
    • Report and discuss findings from breakout groups
    • Discuss workshop outcomes and publication venues


Werner KuhnProfessor, Department of Geography, and Director, Center for Spatial Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Behzad VahediGraduate Student of GIScience, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Jingyi XiaoGraduate Student of GIScience, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Sara LafiaGraduate Student of GIScience, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Last modified: February 23, 2018