Qualitative GIS and Spatial Research


Qualitative GIS is a mixed methods framework for social and spatial research. This entry provides a critical review of qualitative GIS and demonstrates how forms of evidence and analysis familiar to qualitative research have been integrated with GIS in a variety of ways in spatial research since the turn of the 21st century. The entry begins by discussing its epistemological foundations. Then, it describes the range of ways that researchers have integrated qualitative, quantitative, and geovisual methods in GIS. A first wave of qualitative GIS approaches in the 2000s developed four main strategies implementing qualitative forms of representation or analysis into GIS-based research: transformation of qualitative data for geovisualization, multimedia techniques for incorporating qualitative artifacts, mixed methodological frameworks, and software-level adaptations. These different practices of qualitative GIS have generated stronger and more nuanced social and spatial understanding than are possible within singular epistemological/methodological frameworks. This entry also discusses new approaches to qualitative GIS that are emerging through ongoing development in the form and function of spatial data and technologies. These developments are creating unique opportunities for qualitative GIS as a form of multimodal knowledge production in spatial research, as scholars bring together new types of qualitative data (spatial big data), analysis (algorithmic approach and digital ethnography), new visualization practices (qualitative geovisualization), and new digital technologies (locative apps).

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