Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Robert Stimson
Chapter 23: Merging survey and spatial data using GIS-enabled analysis and modelling
Understanding the spatial patterns of human interaction and engagement with the environmental context or situational setting in which that occurs is critical in spatially integrated social science research. Often attitudinal and behavioural research adopts a non-spatial approach to understanding the hidden behavioural patterns and response sets using questionnaire based surveys. Exclusion of the situational context where a perceptual response or behavioural outcome is elicited could mean that only a partial story will be told. Thus, the integration of unit record survey-based data with spatial data that capture and characterize the locational context of the behaviours on which data are typically collected in a social survey is an important topic for spatially integrated social science research. Human behaviours may be overt, but much of the data collected in surveys tends to be attitudinal or perceptual – and is thus subjective. But that may be in response to physical, socio-economic and cultural stimuli. Understanding of those response relationships might be enhanced if the responses to survey questions are able to be interpreted and analysed within the ‘environmental context’ where they occur. To establish such relationships, behavioural and perceptual data collected through sample surveys needs to be integrated with the environmental or situational context to which it relates, and that situational context can be represented through spatial objective data which represent the objective characteristics of the context; for example the density of the residential area in which a survey respondent lives.
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