Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Robert Stimson
Chapter I: A spatially integrated approach to social science research
For the last couple of decades there has been a marked growth in literature that promotes the notion of a spatially integrated social science (SISS). That includes a pioneering paper by Goodchild et al. (2000) in which the authors outlined the emergence of interest in space and place in the social sciences and proposed a vision for a SISS, and a major book edited by Goodchild and Janelle (2004a). The emergence of an explicitly spatially integrated approach in social science research reflects an increasing recognition that space, space–time and place are important considerations in understanding the complex changes occurring in contemporary society. These changes impact unevenly on both people and places. This recognizes that people’s lives are connected with others, that they live in a space and place context, and that that may change over time. And it recognizes that people occupy a range of social settings, which may be conceptualized as generalized network structures embedded within social space, where proximity within that space may be geographical, relational or place specific. A spatially integrated approach in the social sciences thus explicitly recognizes the key role that geographical (or spatial) concepts – such as distance, distribution, location, proximity, connectivity, place, neighbourhood and region – play in human society and the behaviour of individuals, groups and organizations. It certainly promotes research that advances the understanding of spatial patterns and processes; and it invokes powerful principles of spatial thinking.
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