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February 15th, 2008
Geospatial Analysis

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Geospatial Analysis Cover

Lars Brodersen reviews the book Geospatial Analysis by authors Michael J de Smith, Michael F Goodchild and Paul A Longley. “What a book! Whether you are just a little bit interested in spatial analysis, or you are interested on a general level, or even very interested as specialist, this is a good book to own. For the reasonable price of 20 Euro, this book provides a comprehensive guidance to principles, techniques and software tools for geospatial analysis.”


Geospatial Analysis

A Comprehensive Independent Guide to Principles, Techniques & Software



Michael J de Smith

Michael F Goodchild

Paul A Longley


Published by Matador (an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd)
on behalf of The Winchelsea Press

ISBN 13: 978-1906221-980 (Soft cover version)

ISBN 13: 978-1906221-522 (Hard cover version)


Web Free /20 Euro PDF / 50 Euro Print

Review by Lars Brodersen


What a book! Whether you are just a little bit interested in spatial analysis, or you are interested on a general level, or even very interested as specialist, this is a good book to own. For the reasonable price of 20 Euro, this book provides a comprehensive guidance to principles, techniques and software tools for geospatial analysis. Choose between a printed version (B/W), a PDF-version (full colour, print-self) or a free web-version. The PDF-version is fully printable. For 50 Euro the printed paperback version is available and includes the PDF-version. Or simply check-out the free web-version. What a bargain!

The authors’ primary concern is with developing adequate understanding of the ways in which computer software can be used to solve geographical problems. Therefore, the book is a comprehensive work of reference if you need to know or want to know how to make e.g. distance operations, grid operations and map algebra, spatial autocorrelation, heuristic and meta-heuristic algorithms etc. The detailed descriptions of these techniques are accompanied by plenty of examples and tutorials. Along with the text, the book’s web-site provides a number of ‘add-ons’. One example permits downloadable datasets and spreadsheets etc. and can be used to create many of the examples illustrated, all of which you are free to use. Another example of the web-site’s add-ons is a set of free Powerpoint presentations available for Universities and Colleges wishing to use these in conjunction with the book. These Powerpoint presentations are designed to provide templates that can be augmented with your own materials and examples, or extracted slides can be embedded in your own Powerpoint presentations.
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The book’s major chapters are about ‘Data exploration and Spatial Statistics’, ‘Surface and Field Analysis’, ‘Network and Location Analysis’, and ‘Geocomputational Methods and Modelling’. This book can be seen as a companion to the pioneering book on ‘Geographic Systems and Science by Longley, Goodchild, Maguire and Rhind (Second Edition, 2005), extending or amending chapters 14 to 16 of that work. So, at first glance this work could look like a nerd’s work of reference, which it actually is. A very comprehensive one, indeed! But it is much more than that.

Besides being a work of reference it is a kind of general textbook on ‘spatial analysis’. The first approximately 150 pages give a fine introduction to ‘Conceptual Frameworks for Spatial Analysis’, ‘Historical and Methodological Context’, and ‘Building Blocks of Spatial Analysis’. Furthermore, the point of departure is an introduction where different software is being discussed along with some general reflections on GIS and spatial analysis. The best part of this introduction, I think, is the section ‘Terminology’. This section is not a discussion about where the words originate, but instead, provides a list of definitions of the concepts including necessary explanations. This is something that is so often missing in textbooks and other scientific literature, but here is a good list of definitions of concepts.

Despite the fact that the book is not directly a textbook you will still be able to get a comprehensive introduction to the world of ‘GIS + software + spatial-statistics + techniques’ – if you need that. If you are a ‘nerd’ you will be able to update your knowledge about principles and techniques, and you will certainly have the opportunity to fine-tune your GIS-vocabulary and spatial-analysis vocabulary. If you are a non-nerd you will get a good chance to get closer to understand the nerds by reading the book.

I miss a few things in the book. The book is a guide to principles, techniques and software tools on geospatial analysis, no doubt about that. The scope of the book is made very clear in the foreword, in the list of contents and in the first chapter. However, I find that a little bit more room in the book could have been spend on the issues of input to spatial analysis and output from spatial analysis. Chapter 3 discuss principle aspects of input to spatial analyses, i.e. running a project based geo-information (project’s purpose, user’s tasks etc.), which is fine. My concern is that specialists in spatial analysis might assume or seem to assume that input to their work (the spatial analysis) has been prepared thoroughly by ‘somebody else’ and therefore that the input basically is ‘just there’ and is kind of non-questionable. I doubt that this in general is a sound assumption.

Therefore I find it would have been useful if the book had laid a little more stress on the input-aspect throughout the book. Useful in that respect that the analysis-specialist then would be a bit more aware of what input he starts out with, and therefore the analysis-specialist would be better prepared to discuss input with the project-manager, just to ensure that input in a project has been considered thoroughly and to avoid that input is chosen by chance or by habit. Example: The organic fertilizer (manure) from pigs is a problem because it pollutes rivers and lakes if there is too much of it. Therefore thorough spatial analysis must be made as a basis for decision making to keep political control of the discharge of the manure. One could easily think that best input to such an analysis would be the pigs registered address (co-ordinates) and the number of pigs at that location (multiplied by volume of manure) – a logical conclusion.

However, if you are not aware that the farmers trade the manure and transport it from one end of the country to the other in order to get rid of it, severe mistakes can be made. The manure is not necessarily put onto the soil where the pigs are registered, often times far from it. Therefore, if the geospatial-analysis-specialist is not considering input aspects thoroughly, the spatial analysis can sometimes lead to incorrect results, and waste time. The politicians will not ask what input has been used; they will just accept the result. It is not necessary to end in such an unhappy situation. It just needs a little bit more awareness regarding the question of where the input actually comes from.
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The other thing, for which I miss some discussion in the book, is the output from spatial analysis. The output of any spatial analysis must somehow be presented in a readable form (e.g. as graphics, maps or something else). I mean, if the output cannot be read, it is not worth carrying out the analysis. And the more readable the result is, the better the user will understand the contents of the result. The problem of presenting the result of spatial analysis is not part of the book’s scope, but still, it would have been useful if there had been at least some referencing to adequate literature (e.g. Slocum et al’s fantastic book ‘Thematic Cartography and Geographic Visualization’ (new edition soon available). A chapter or two on the output-aspect could save the reader uncertainty about the relations between input-output and geospatial analysis. But, it is definitely not something that reduces the qualities of this book.

Another minor suggestion I have for future editions is a discussion on the principle aspects of space. The book’s point of departure is, in this respect, that phenomena can and must be positioned on the earth’s surface and referenced against Greenwich and Equator. I agree that this reflects the general concept of modern geo-information and GIS. But I miss a discussion what to do with non-geographical spaces like e.g. ‘an organization’ and e.g. ‘space of comprehension’. How does one carry out spatial analysis on an organization, which in fact I think is a sensible thing to do.

An organization contains relations of many orders in the same principle manner as e.g. a road network. The other space-aspect about ‘mental spaces of comprehension’ is more complex but could be mentioned anyway. A discussion of these aspects of concepts of space could sustain an extension of the geoinformation-domain towards some more theoretical ideas and concepts for the purpose of not limiting ourselves to x-y-z coordinates referring to Greenwich and Equator.

The book is written in easy-to-understand English. The technical aspects of readability could have been improved if hyphenation had been used and there had been a little more line-spacing. Relatively often the space between words is larger than the space between lines. This means that you must be prepared to use your index-finger when reading the text to keep track of where you are. However, that is just a minor thing.

Conclusions: Get it! It is an excellent and very comprehensive guide and introduction to spatial analysis, and there is nothing like this anywhere else.
Information: Geospatial Analysis

Lars Brodersen is Assistant Professor in the Department of  Development and Planning at Aalborg University, Denmark. He is an expert in the field of Geo-communication for Geo-information. Website

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