This entry discusses a higher-categorical perspective on that standard notion.
On p. 37 of
it is argued that the standard definition of scheme with its insistance on an underlying topological space is slightly misleading:
it is in some sense coincidental that is described by a topological space. What arises more canonically is the lattice of open subsets of , which is generated by basic open sets of the form . This lattice naturally forms a locale, or 0-topos. It happens that this locale has enough points, and can therefore be described as the lattice of open subsets of a topological space. However, there are various reasons we might want to disregard this fact:
b) In relative situations, the relevant construction may well fail to admit enough points, even if the axiom of choice is assumed. However, the underlying locale (and its associated sheaf theory) are still well-behaved.
c) If we wish to replace the Zariski topology by some other topology (such as the étale topology), then we are forced to work with as a topos rather than simply as a topological space: the category of étale sheaves on is not generated by subobjects of the final object.
When we study derived algebraic geometry, we will want to study sheaves on of a higher categorical nature, such as sheaves of spaces or sheaves of spectra. For these purposes it will be most convenient to regard as an ∞-topos, rather than as a topological space.
From that perspective then a scheme is realized as a structured (∞,1)-topos with respect to the Zariski geometry (for structured (∞,1)-toposes) . See the examples at derived scheme for more details on this.