PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2016, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (12): 1447-1458.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2016.12.002

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The application of qualitative GIS method in urbansocio-spatial structure research

Jian FENG(), Hongbo CHAI   

  1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Online:2016-12-20 Published:2016-12-20
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41671157


Qualitative Geographic Information System (GIS) is one of the important methodologies of qualitative research in Western human geography. Integrating qualitative data and spatial elements, qualitative GIS enables researchers to further illustrate how a spatial background is constructed and influenced by social elements. Equipped with this system, researchers may reorganize multiple elements, and therefore demonstrate the diversity and complexity of people's living space. Based on this, a three-dimensional visualization can be conducted to depict the very detail of daily life path, thus realizing the visualization of processes of social space. This article reviews current methodologies of qualitative GIS in the West, summarizes the application of these methods in urban social space research, as well as examines the prospect of similar studies in China. There are mainly four methodologies in qualitative GIS: participatory GIS, geo-ethnography combined with grounded visualization, geo-narrative, and sketch maps. These methods are respectively certain combination of various academic fields, such as critical Geographic Information System, anthropology, computer-aided qualitative data analysis, and mental maps. The above mentioned methodologies are mainly applied in three aspects: individual data collection and analysis based on emotion expression, activity space visualization based on hybrid approach, and social space study based on qualitative GIS. Generally, qualitative GIS, as a relatively new academic concept, contains multiple meanings in both micro and macro scales, making it possible for researchers to observe and participate in social processes from various perspectives, which is beneficial for theoretical innovation and further research of urban social space. Although there exist technical obstacles to the widespread use of qualitative GIS in current studies, there is still plenty of space for researchers to move further and build on this approach in the future.

Key words: qualitative GIS, geo-narrative, three-dimensional geo-visualization, hybrid geographies, urban social space