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Qualitative GIS and the visualization of narrative activity space data

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Qualitative activity space data, i.e. qualitative data associated with the routine locations and activities of individuals, are recognized as increasingly useful by researchers in the social and health sciences for investigating the influence of environment on human behavior. However, there has been little research on techniques for exploring qualitative activity space data. This research illustrates the theoretical principles of combining qualitative and quantitative data and methodologies within the context of geographic information systems (GIS), using visualization as the means of inquiry. Through the use of a prototype implementation of a visualization system for qualitative activity space data and its application in a case study of urban youth we show how these theoretical methodological principles are realized in applied research. The visualization system uses a variety of visual variables to simultaneously depict multiple qualitative and quantitative attributes of individuals' activity spaces. The visualization is applied to explore the activity spaces of a sample of urban youth participating in a study on the geographic and social contexts of adolescent substance use. Examples demonstrate how the visualization can be used to explore individual activity spaces to generate hypotheses, investigate statistical outliers, and explore activity space patterns among subject subgroups.
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Keywords: activity space; contextual effects; geographic visualization; narrative; qualitative GIS

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography and Urban Studies,Temple University, Philadelphia,PA, USA 2: Department of Psychiatry, Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry,Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond,VA, USA 3: Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Crawley,WA, Australia

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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