Social Science and GIS

In the article, Spatializing Social Networks: Using Social Network Analysis to Investigate Geographies of Gang Rivalry, Territoriality, and Violence in Los Angeles, the authors explain how social network theory methods can be applied to GIS in order to render a better contextualization of the territoriality of gang violence in Los Angeles (2010). I found it noteworthy that methodological applications of GIScience using social science analysis have the potential to inform activism against systems of violence and oppression. Pursuing methods to investigate the patterning of social relations through a geographic lens allows geographers the power to compare and devise patterns of violence at other scales and geographies. Therefore, the methods discussed within the paper have the capacity to inform widespread policy dedicated to ending gang violence on a large scale.

The application of social network theory methods to GIS reminds me that “doing GIS” is in fact a representation and assertion of social regulation and power. I suspect that my lack of knowledge about social network theory and structural equivalence limited the impact of the article’s insights for me. However, I do know that space as a social construction, rather than merely informing social process, is an important assertion and fundamental to critical GIS. The paper’s examination of gang violence in L.A. underscores that critical GIS plays an important role within the discipline of GIScience. Hopefully, future GIScience research will embrace critical GIS in order to more accurately understand how spatial social networks result in material geographic realities.


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