Spatial Analysis: Evolution, Methods, and Applications

Yuji Murayama and Rajesh B. Thapa

Development of Spatial Analysis with GIS
In a narrow sense, spatial analysis has been described as a method for analyzing
spatial data, while in a broad sense it includes revealing and clarifying processes,
structures, etc., of spatial phenomena that occur on the Earth’s surface. Ultimately,
it is designed to support spatial decision-making, and to serve as a tool for assisting
with regional planning and the formulation of government policies, among other
things. The world of GIS includes such terms as spatial data manipulation, spatial
data analysis, spatial statistical analysis, and spatial modeling. While there are
admittedly slight differences in the definitions of these terms (O’Sullivan & Unwin,
2003), they are subsumed in this chapter, which will examine spatial analysis in a
broad sense.
If we think of GIS in simple terms as a computer system for entering→managing→
operating→outputting spatial data, then spatial analysis would apply to the
“operating” part. Viewed historically, GIS has been developed to help national and
local governments to store and manage enormous amounts of geographical information.
For that reason, there has been much research on the functions for entering,
managing and outputting spatial data, so that today, it is reaching the mature stage
in a practical sense. However, operating functions including attribute search, geometric
operation and mapping are still in a state of development, in that they are
still at a level that cannot satisfactorily meet users’ needs. Against this backdrop,
society’s needs for spatial analysis have increased greatly in the 21st century, and
with advances in geographical information science, there is growing enthusiasm for
enhancing the operational functions of GIS.

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