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Any set of geographic information can be disassembled into a collection of observations. In almost any case, these observations follow the rules of a particular measurement scheme. A scale of measurement is a way to document such rules. The archetype of a measurement scale has a fixed zero and an established unit of measure, but not all geographic information conforms to this format. This entry discusses taxonomies of measurement, particularly a system of “levels” of measurement in an ordered hierarchy, with the labels nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio, that has become a common element of instruction in cartography, geography, and many of the social sciences. Some attention to measurement is critical to understanding the utility and limitations of geographic data.

Measurement is an old technology. The ...

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