What does Google Earth Mean for the Social Sciences?

Michael F. Goodchild

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

14 Scopus citations


Google Earth is an easy-to-use service for visualizing the surface of the Earth, and is readily extended to act as an output medium for a wide range of products of social-science research. It and other currently available geobrowsers closely approximate the vision of Digital Earth. Its designers overcame several apparently daunting technical problems, including the need for a hierarchical data structure and clever level-of-detail management. While the service is available to all, its use relies on fundamental spatial concepts, some of which are highly technical. Besides acting as an output medium, Google Earth presents a subject for social research in its own right, and there is a pressing need to address some of the issues identified in the earlier social critiques of cartography and geographic information systems. Several issues are identified that might, if addressed, lead to future geobrowsers that better meet the needs of social scientists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGeographic Visualization
Subtitle of host publicationConcepts, Tools and Applications
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9780470515112
StatePublished - May 6 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Arc2Earth-simple-to-use third-party extension
  • Dutton's Quaternary Triangular Mesh (QTM)
  • ESRI's ArcGIS Explorer and global map concept
  • Google Earth API
  • Google Earth and fundamental spatial concepts
  • Google Earth technology and Gore Digital Earth
  • Google Earth-'God's-eye view' and 'the view from nowhere'
  • Google Earth-visualization easy-to-use service
  • Social science geobrowsers using Google Earth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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