Edited by Robert Stimson
In recent years there has been a well-documented spatial turn in the social sciences, as well as in many other areas of science and the arts. It has been fueled in part by the availability of geographic information systems (GIS) and other computational tools that support a spatial perspective; in part by the availability of geo-referenced data, thanks to the Global Positioning System (GPS) and other technologies; and perhaps most importantly by a recognition that a spatial perspective can lead to valuable insights and the development of new theory about social and environmental phenomena distributed over the surface and near-surface of the Earth (Goodchild and Janelle, 2004). But while GIS, GPS and geo-referenced data are well defined and clearly identifiable, there is much less agreement about what exactly constitutes a spatial perspective. For example: · What goes on in the mind of a researcher when taking a spatial perspective and perhaps using spatial tools? · Is it possible to identify a special type of thinking or intelligence needed by such people? · GIS is notoriously difficult to learn and use, but once the user has progressed beyond the awkward stage of learning their way around the software interface, what patterns of thought emerge, and how do they differ from the patterns of thought that characterize more conventional quantitative analysis?
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