Toward critical spatial thinking in the social sciences and humanities

Michael F. Goodchild, Donald G. Janelle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


The integration of geographically referenced information into the conceptual frameworks and applied uses of the social sciences and humanities has been an ongoing process over the past few centuries. It has gained momentum in recent decades with advances in technologies for computation and visualization and with the arrival of new data sources. This article begins with an overview of this transition, and argues that the spatial integration of information resources and the cross-disciplinary sharing of analysis and representation methodologies are important forces for the integration of scientific and artistic expression, and that they draw on core concepts in spatial (and spatio-temporal) thinking. We do not suggest that this is akin to prior concepts of unified knowledge systems, but we do maintain that the boundaries to knowledge transfer are disintegrating and that our abilities in problem solving for purposes of artistic expression and scientific development are enhanced through spatial perspectives. Moreover, approaches to education at all levels must recognize the need to impart proficiency in the critical and efficient application of these fundamental spatial concepts, if students and researchers are to make use of expanding access to a broadening range of spatialized information and data processing technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-13
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Spatial concepts
  • Spatial integration
  • Spatial thinking
  • Spatio-temporal knowledge systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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