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GIS-based simulation as an exploratory analysis for space-time processes

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The purpose of this paper is to argue for a novel use of geographical information system (GIS) as an exploratory device for understanding complex space-time processes. Conventionally, a GIS has been configured as a spatial database management system. Therefore, the capabilities of data input, storage, retrieval, manipulation and display have been well developed, whereas the analytical and dynamic processing and modelling capabilities are under-developed. The importance of integrating GIS with dynamic and analytical models has been widely recognised. Extending the use of GIS into spatial simulation represents a plausible research direction. On the other hand, the usefulness of conventional deductive model becomes limited when dealing with complex space-time processes. In essence, the inherent complexity calls for a simulation approach. The new nonlinear modelling paradigm, for example, cellular automata (CA), opened a way in which behaviourally-richer dynamics and more micro-spatial data could be incorporated into understanding space-time processes. It is argued therefore that GIS can be used as a platform – a controlled environment or laboratory – for exploring complex space-time processes. The discussion of GIS-based simulation in this paper is illustrated with a primitive simulation of the evolution of urban spatial structure.

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Received: 2 July 1997/Accepted: 19 November 1998

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Wu, F. GIS-based simulation as an exploratory analysis for space-time processes. J Geograph Syst 1, 199–218 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s101090050012

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  • Key words: Simulation
  • cellular automata
  • complex space-time processes
  • dynamic modelling
  • JEL classification: R11
  • R12
  • R14
  • R52