Sunday, January 30, 2011

Think Globally, Act Regionally: GIS and Data Visualization for Social Science and Public Policy Research

Reviewed by Nancy J. Obermeyer, Associate Professor of Geography,
Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN

As the subtitle implies, the purpose of Think Globally, Act Regionally: GIS and Data Visualization for Social Sciences and Public Policy Research is to provide a sound introduction to geographic information systems, including hands-on practice, to students studying social science or public policy. The book focuses on cities and urbanization in order to guide its readers to a better understanding of how they might use GIS for their research. In order to accomplish this objective, the book begins with an introduction to the use of GIS and data visualization as a means to explore urban areas. Through several chapters, Think Globally, Act Regionally discusses specific issues prevalent in cities, along with the ways that GIS may be employed to analyze them. The book concludes with seven hands-on exercises that enable the reader to practice using GIS to analyze urban data. Overall, the book accomplishes its objectives in a clear, straightforward manner. 
One of the greatest contributions of Think Globally, Act Regionally to students of social sciences and public policy is its discussion of the importance of geographical scale in urban areas. This discussion, which is a key concept in the opening chapter of the book, includes several examples of specific urban problems (i.e., sprawl, mobility, transportation and infrastructure) that spill beyond official city legal boundaries as a means to illustrate scale issues. The discussion is clear, informative, and persuasive. Similarly, the book’s coverage of data visualization provides a good introduction to the use (and potential misuse) of maps as a means to report social science and public policy analysis. These will be helpful for the book’s target audience.

more urban planning book reviews:

Connecting Urban Sustainability to Wealth Creation

Book Review: Testimonies of the City. Identity, Community and Change in a Contemporary Urban World

Book Review: Self Sufficient City Envisioning the habitat of the future

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