Theorizing with GIS: a tool for critical geographies? (Pavlovskaya, 2006)

This paper by Marianna Pavlovskaya (2006) provides an insightful discussion of theoretical issues related to the distinction between quantitative and qualitative methods. The author does not insist that GIS is either quantitative or qualitative. Critically analyzing the construction of the opposition between quantitative and qualitative methods and the process of breaking the links between epistemologies and methods has occurred in the last decade, Pavlovskaya argues that GIS is not always as quantitative as many geographers assume and claims to an originally non-quantitative GIS enable.

This paper highlights the key role of critical GIS in drawing attention to the potential of incorporating qualitative data and research into spatial analysis. Geographers should notice the importance of doing GIS in critical contexts. For example, much research has examined bikeability, which is the bicycle-friendliness of urban environment, using objective and quantitative measures, such as distance and topography. The qualitative data like perception and emotions of the cyclists can be used to measure the comfort in relation to cycling and improve the experience of cyclists.

The author also mentions that a growing literature on ‘mixed-methods’ integrates quantitative and qualitative techniques. All methods have specific limitations as well as particular strengths, we should combine qualitative and quantitative methods to compensate for their mutual and overlapping weaknesses. For example, in travel behavior studies, while quantitative methods can be applied to measure the frequency and distributions of trips, qualitative approaches focus on the subjective experiences of individuals related to travel and explain the relations that quantitative methods find.

Comments are closed.