Relational Geographic Analysis

A majority of traditional geospatial analyses is based on unary descriptors (and empirical evidence) of geolocated features, places and spaces. Flows, interactions and relationships of any kind (as binary or relational descriptors) between locations are frequently being visualized, used for (functional) regionalisation and to identify and quantify network characteristics, but currently are severely under-represented in the methods and toolsets available for Geoinformatics applications and GIScience research.

Research questions:

1.       Establish a systematic catalog of relational ‘use cases’ and basic types of questions (beyond current, mostly planar network analysis)!

2.       Which obstacles impede fuller support of relational analyses within GIS environments, e.g. do current data models need to be expanded?

3.       How can we leverage synergies and complementary uses of geospatial toolsets (‘GIS’) with network-oriented environments like Gephi, TheBrain and protocols like Open Graph, GraphML etc, in order to answer (2)?

Typical applied problems will include migration and mobility of individuals, communication and connectivity patterns measured from telecommunication and social networking, flows of resources and products etc. Case studies for research will be identified within these and analog domains.

As an entry point to this PhD, an in-depth state of the art literature review will start from early work by e.g. Peter Gould and Waldo Tobler, explore insights from the ‘relational turn’ in economics and social geography, include mathematical (spatial) topology and general relational analysis (e.g. in semantics and content analysis).

Challenges are expected to be the identification of suitable data models reaching across ‘all’ kinds of relational (geo)data, the conceptualization of a generic schema of (geo)relational analyses including metrics and indicators for relational characteristics (like accessibility, connectivity) and the transition (‘up’ and ‘down’) over a range of spatial scales / resolutions.