Representation and spatial analysis in geographic information systems

Harvey J. Miller, Elizabeth Wentz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


A common - perhaps modal - representation of geography in spatial analysis and geographic information systems is native (unexamined) objects interacting based on simple distance and connectivity relationships within an empty Euclidean space. This is only one possibility among a large set of geographic representations that can support quantitative analysis. Through the vehicle of GIS, many researchers are adopting this representation without realizing its assumptions or its alternatives. Rather than locking researchers into a single representation, GIS could serve as a toolkit for estimating and exploring alternative geographic representations and their analytical possibilities. The article reviews geographic representations, their associated analytical possibilities and relevant computational tools in the combined spatial analysis and GIScience literatures. The discussion identifies several research and development frontiers, including analytical gaps in current GIS software.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)574-594
Number of pages21
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Geographic information systems
  • Geographic representation
  • Spatial analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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