[APG Public List] [APG Members] place names

linda at fpr.com linda at fpr.com
Sat Oct 30 15:36:24 MDT 2010

John wrote:
> The attractiveness of using GPS coordinates is that they are constant
> (assuming it was reliably obtained). A place name is very important and
> not to be discarded if one *also* uses the GPS coordinates of it. But as 
> many times the name of the place is changed by changing, evolving, or
> revisionist history, the GPS coordinates of it will never change. And
> it becomes a trivial matter to locate it on a map or in person, and to
> convey that information precisely and easily to another person. All
> with just two simple numbers. Scientists love it, at least. ;-)


In their ideal, GPS or latitude&longitude coordinates reference points
not areas.   Many places are areas not points.  One  might use multiple
coordinate sets to correspond to a specific land area, but that is not
"two simple numbers."   

I do not find the idea of using GPS coordinates with varying degrees of
precision (number of digits) corresponding to square or rectangular
areas to be a very satisfactory representation for land areas that, for
the most part, do not fit such geometric shapes.   Perhaps for areas in
the public land survey system (or similar) it might be useful enough of
the time, but not for those where metes & bounds were customarily used. 
It seems contrived and very inexact.   Maps seem much more useful to me
for this purpose.  

How exactly would one associate a GPS coordinate set with a place name,
so that it complies with your statement that while "the name of the
place is changed by changing, evolving, or revisionist history, the GPS
coordinates of it will never change."   When you wrote "the GPS
coordinates of it will never change,"  what is the "it" ?  

Consider the following cases:

- same place name, boundaries change     ?same coordinate set ?
- same boundaries, different place name   ? same coordinate set ?
- different types of place name organization, sometime nested, sometimes
independent (county, town, township, parish, street address, land
parcel, school district, etc)      How does one ensure that there is a
unique one-to-one mapping of coordinate set to place name throughout

I would dearly love to have a couple of numbers, even three or four,
which would accomplish what you describe.   It would make automatically
integrating information associated with places so much easier.  But I
don't see how GPS coordinates accomplish that goal. 

I can imagine that it would be very useful if *someone* went to the
trouble to accurately associate all the possible place names (past &
present) with each latitude&longitude coordinate set, so that if I had a
coordinate set, I could look-up possible place names for a given point
in time.  That would be very handy indeed and would motivate me to focus
more on GPS coordinates and the like.

Linda Gardner

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