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Surfaces: tacit knowledge, formal language, and metaphor at the Harvard Lab for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis

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The Harvard Lab for Computer and Spatial Analysis was one of several sites in the early development of GIS where seminal innovations in the processing and display of geographically referenced data took place. An early area of concern at the lab were the mathematical and technical problems associated with the modelling of ‘surfaces’. This term, ‘surface’, came to take on new and sometimes abstract meanings. The language used to describe ‘surfaces’ was rooted in tacit knowledge and more formal mathematics. The mixing of different forms of language, both verbal and written, allowed the passing of abstract and sometimes difficult meanings. It may be that universal history is the history of a handful of metaphors ... It may be that universal history is the history of the different intonations given a handful of metaphors (Borges 1964, p. 189 and 192).
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, DePaul University, 990 West Fullerton, Parkway, Chicago, IL60614, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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