• Workshop information on the “Program” and “How to Prepare” are now available below.
  • Additional registrations are still available for participants who have not submitted papers.
  • Short presentations are expected of participants who have submitted papers.
  • The workshop will be held on August 28 from 9-12:30 at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia (Megaflex 2 – RMIT Building 8, Level 4, Room 12).

Full Conference Website Register for the Workshop (W9)


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.

How to Prepare

Please read the “Organizers’ Discussion Paper”, presented at the AGILE 2018 Workshop “Teaching Geospatial Technologies to All”, and the papers submitted by participants of this workshop.

Organizers’ Discussion Paper

Accepted Position Papers


The first part of this half-day workshop will consist of lightning talks selected from responses to this call. The second part will feature a brief plenary discussion on how to translate spatial questions into computations, followed by a breakout session to explore specific approaches in more detail. The session will end with a wrap-up session to compile a list of research challenges, as well as to decide on a publication outlet.

Session I (9:00am – 10:30am)

  • Workshop objectives and participant self-introductions (30 min)
  • Introduction to key ideas by the organizers (20 min)
    • Question-based computing
    • Core concepts
    • Core computations
  • Participant lightning talks on at least one of these ideas in ≤ 5 slides and 5 minutes (40 min)
    • What (kinds of) spatial questions are you addressing?
    • What core computations are required to answer them?
    • How does the translation from questions to core computations work?

Coffee Break (10:30 – 11am)

Session II (11am – 12:30pm)

  • Open Discussion (30 min)
    • How are user questions answered by core computations?
    • List specific gaps between user questions and today’s tools.
  • Breakout groups on individual core concepts (30 min)
    • What are user questions about this concept?
    • What are core computations on representations of the concept?
    • How can these core computations answer the questions?
  • Concluding discussions (30 min)
    • Report and discuss findings from breakout groups.
    • Discussion on outcomes and publication


Werner KuhnProfessor, Department of Geography, and Director, Center for Spatial Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Karen KempProfessor, Spatial Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, 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: August 9, 2018