What do you see in the image below? A series of black blobs, or the words MAIL BOX?

mailbox

 

 

I recently started reading the book “Gödel, Escher, Back: an Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas Hofstadter, and Chapter III really got me thinking. The chapter is on Figure and Ground, which mainly relates to art where the figure is the subject of the artwork and the ground is the background. Hofstadter’s book, though, is not so much about art as it is about logic and the way we think and perceive the world.

I started thinking about figure and ground from a geospatial point of view. As an example, let’s say we are analyzing an area of interest trying to determine a specific type of habitat or feature. Depending on the type of analysis, the features we are looking for may be small, complex, or not neatly defined. But what if we looked at it from the point of view of what is not our target feature? Then, like in the image above, the ground becomes the figure and the figure becomes the ground. Similar to the way astronomers used to look at the glass plate exposures from their telescopes. They would look at the negative image where the stars were black on a clear or white background, thereby making them easier to see because of the contrast. Using this same idea applied to geospatial analysis, in some cases, might useful in highlighting the areas we are interested in by looking at what it is not.

References

Hofstadter, D. R. (2000). Gödel, Escher, Bach: An eternal golden braid : 20th-aniversary edition with a new preface by the author. N.Y: Penguin Books.

 

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