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2.0 The relationship between philosophical and theoretical considerations

2.1 Theory

Before approaching epistemological and ontological choices made in GIS studies, one has to define what the concepts of 'theory' and 'philosophy' mean in this context. 'Theory' can mean a number of different things. Trigger (1989, 20-25) separated low-level theories and middle-level theories from high-level theories. The former often refer to specific interpretations of outlined processes, e.g. Etruscan state formation, and the latter to general models and concepts, e.g. social interaction and territoriality. Philosophical frame of reference can be considered as a high-level theory, although Trigger (1989) used the term to incorporate general theories and laws.

In GIS studies, 'theory' refers normally to the principles of different methodologies outlined in geography and defined by computing concepts and hardware facilities (e.g. Zubrow 1990a; Gaffney and Stančić 1991, 15-32; Gaffney et al. 1995a; 1995b). Of different 'theories', GIS practitioners tend to discuss middle-level concepts like time (Castleford 1992), space (Exon et al. 2000), perception (e.g. Wheatley 1993; Witcher 1999; Wheatley and Gillings 2000) and movement (Llobera 1996; 2000). Philosophical considerations have usually been restricted to the definitions of concepts (cf. Castleford 1992). However, there is a general acknowledgement that archaeological theory has to influence GIS practices (cf. Gaffney et al. 1995b; 1996; Wheatley 2003; Whitley this volume).

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