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int. j. geographical information science, 1998 , vol. 12 , no.

7 , 651 671

Review Article
GIS-based urban modelling: practices, problems, and prospects
Department of Geography,Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-3147, USA e-mail:

This paper reviews the practices, problems, and prospects of GISbased urban modelling. The author argues that current stand-alone and various loose/tight coupling approaches for GIS-based urban modelling are essentially technology-driven without adequate justi cation and veri cation for the urban models being implemented. The absolute view of space and time embodied in the current generation of GIS also imposes constraints on the type of new urban models that can be developed. By reframing the future research agenda from a geographical information science (GISci ) perspective, the author contends that the integration of urban modelling with GIS must proceed with the development of new models for the informational cities, the incorporation of multi-dimensional concepts of space and time in GIS, and the further extension of the feature-based model to implement these new urban models and spatial-temporal concepts according to the emerging interoperable paradigm. GISci-based urban modelling will not only espouse new computational models and implementation strategies that are computing platform independent but also liberate us from the constraints of existing urban models and the rigid spatial-temporal framework embedded in the current generation of GIS, and enable us to think above and beyond the technical issues that have occupied us during the past ten years.



For almost two decades in the 1960s and the 1970s, GIS and urban modelling developed in parallel with few interactions. The integration of GIS with urban modelling did not take place until the late 1980s, as a part of the GIS communitys e orts to improve the analytical capabilities of GIS (Goodchild et al . 1992, Anselin and Getis 1992, Fischer and Nijkamp 1992, Fotheringham and Rogerson 1994, Fischer et al . 1996 ). Nowadays, GIS users and urban modellers have increasingly recognized the mutual bene ts of such an integration from the preliminary successes of the past ten years. Various urban modelling techniques have enabled GIS users to go beyond the data inventory and management stage to conduct sophisticated modelling and simulation. For urban modeling e orts, GIS has provided modelers with new platforms for data management and visualization ( Nyerges 1995). The massive di usion of GIS in society has the potential to make models more transparent and to enable the communication of their operations and results to a large group of users. The growing literature on the integration of GIS with urban modelling attests the recognition of such mutual bene ts ( Brail 1990, Birkin et al . 1990, Batty 1992, Brooks et al . 1993 ). The objective of this paper is three-fold: ( 1) to review the current practices of GIS-based urban modelling; ( 2) to identify the existing problems of current e orts to link GIS with urban modelling; ( 3 ) to discuss a new research agenda from the emerging geographical information science (GISci ) perspective.
1365-8816 /98 $12.00

1998 Taylor & Francis Ltd.


D. Z. Sui

This paper is organized into ve sections. After a brief background introduction in section one, the current practices of GIS-based urban modeling are reviewed in section two. Section 3 discusses the existing problems of coupling GIS with urban modelling. Future prospects of urban modelling from the perspective of geographical information science are covered in 4, followed by concluding remarks in 5.
2. GIS-based urban modelling: current practices

By the early 1990s, it was (and perhaps still is) a general consensus within the GIS community that the lack of sophisticated analytical and modelling capabilities was one of the major de ciencies in the current generation of GIS technology (Openshaw 1991 ). Several recent research initiatives in North America and Europe focus on the improvement of spatial analytical and modelling capabilities of GIS technology. The integration of GIS with urban modelling was part of these broad research e orts to link spatial analysis and modelling with GIS. Although overlapping with many other GIS modelling e orts in terms of the general methodology, GISbased urban modelling has a set of substantially di erent conceptual issues from GIS-based environmental modelling (Goodchild et al . 1993, 1996). Current practices of GIS-based urban modelling thus deserve a separate scrutiny. Generally speaking, four di erent approaches have been widely used to integrate GIS with urban modelling ( gure 1). My discussions here are con ned to methodological issues only. Those interested in the details of speci c models are referred to Wegener ( 1994). 1. Embedding GIS-like functionalitie s into urban modelling packages . This approach aims to embed GIS functionalities in urban modelling packages, and has been adopted primarily by urban modellers and spatial statisticians who think of GIS essentially as a mapping tool. Usually no commercially available GIS software packages are involved, as illustrated by Putnam ( 1992) in the US, the Leeds group in the UK (Clarke 1990, Birkin et al . 1996 ), and Hasletts SPIDER system ( Haslett 1990 ), etc. This approach usually gives system developers maximum freedom for system design. Implementation is not constrained by any existing GIS data structures, and usually this approach is capable of incorporating the latest development in urban modelling. The downside of this approach is that the data management and visualization capabilities of these urban modelling software packages are in no way comparable to those available in commercial GIS and programming e orts also tend to be intensive and sometimes redundant. Also, we should recognize that most urban modelling software packages were developed by individual researchers geared toward speci c projects. Although they possess certain conceptual commonalties, these urban modelling packages use a great variety of data structures, programming tools, and hardware platforms that make this approach extremely di cult for other users. 2. Embedding urban modelling into GIS by software vendors . Although still predominantly an academic pursuit, a few leading GIS software vendors in recent years have made extra e orts to improve the analytical and modelling capabilities of their products. Pioneered by the urban data management system (UDMS) ( Robinson and Coiner 1986 ), several commercial software vendors have developed stand-alone GIS software packages with functions that can be used for a variety of urban modeling needs ( Ferguson et al . 1992 ). Certain urban modelling functions have been embedded in leading generic GIS software packages such as TransCAD, ArcViews SPATIAL/

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Figure 1.

Integrating GIS with urban modelling: current practices.

NETWORK Analysts, and SPANS etc. This approach builds on top of a commercial GIS software package and takes full advantage of built-in GIS functionalities, but the modeling capabilities are usually simplistic and calibrations must take place outside of the package. Also because the market for modelling capabilities is still much smaller than that for data management and mapping, most GIS software vendors have not been very enthusiastic in integrating sophisticated modeling capabilities in the their software products. 3. L oose coupling . This approach usually involves a standard GIS package (e.g. Arc/Info) and an urban modelling program (e.g. TRANSPLAN or TRIPS) or a statistical package (e.g. SAS or SPSS). Urban modelling and GIS are integrated, via data exchange using either ASCIII or binary data format, among several di erent software packages without a common user interface. The advantage of this approach is that redundant programming can be avoided, but the data shu ing and conversion between di erent packages can be tedious and error prone (Sui and Lo 1992, Shaw 1993, Brooks et al . 1993; Geertman and van Eck 1995 ). Because computer programming is minimal, this approach may be the most realistic method for most GIS users to conduct modelling work.


D. Z. Sui

4. T ight coupling . This approach embeds certain urban models with a commercial GIS software package via either GIS macro or conventional programming (Miller 1991, Batty and Xie 1994 a, 1994 b, Ding and Fotheringham 1992, Anselin et al . 1993 ). With the recognition of the users need to develop customized applications, more and more GIS software vendors are providing macro and script programming capabilities so that users can lump a series of individual commands in a batch mode or develop a customized user interface for speci c applications. Such languages are seldom powerful enough to implement sophisticated models, however, an alternative method is to incorporate user-written routines into a GIS. Several software packages have already developed mechanisms to allow user-developed modelling libraries or routines to be called within the normal pull-down menu of a particular software package. This approach, however, requires a well-de ned interface to the data structures held by the GIS. The challenge will be to develop new mechanisms for all users to access spatial data without needing to know about the particular data structures used in the GIS (Goodchild et al . 1992). The rst two approaches lend the integration e ort to software developers, users have minimal involvement in the technical aspects of the integration whereas the third and fourth approach put the technical task of integration squarely on the shoulders of the users. Although GIS software vendors have increasingly recognized the importance of analytical and modelling capabilities, most of the recent GIS-base urban modelling e orts are made via the loose or tight coupling approach (Anselin and Bao 1997 ). Although conventional urban models, such as di erent versions of the LowryGarin models and monocentric population density models, still dominate current practices, two other features of the recent GIS-based urban modelling e orts are worth noting. 1. T he development and introduction of a series of new concepts and techniques in urban modelling . These concepts and techniques include, but are not limited to, cellular automata, fractals, neural networks, parallel processing, and genetic algorithms ( Batty and Xie 1994 c, Batty and Longley 1994, Gimblett et al . 1994, Kirtland et al . 1994, Openshaw 1994, Clarke and Gaydos 1998 ). Such e orts mark a dramatic shift from conceiving cities based upon predominantly physical metaphors as machines to conceptualizing cities using a biological metaphor as organisms. While the traditional urban models based upon gravity or entropy maximization favours a top-down approach emphasizing global patterns, the new urban models based up cellular automata and fractals take a bottom-up approach stressing local rules and variations. Although to what extent this shift represents progress in modelling urban reality is still debatable, research interests in these biologically inspired models continue to grow among urban modellers. This kind of biologically motivated thinking is not just con ned to urban modelling but is permeating the entire intellectual terrain, and some even argue that this marks the rise of a new biological civilization ( Kelly 1994). Perhaps, what is more important is that the new models have not only been implemented using GIS, such as cellular automata in a rasterbased GIS ( Itami 1994), but also have stimulated discussions of new concepts about space and time which can be used to redesign GIS (Couclelis and Takeyama 1995). 2. T he rise of urban modelling applications in the private sector . In terms of applications, we have witnessed a gradual decline and even a phasing out (such as in the UK) of urban modelling applications in the public sector, and a rapid increase

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in the private sector applications relating to marketing and geodemographic analysis ( Longley and Clarke 1995, Birkin 1996, Birkin et al . 1996). Long term strategic planning by government agencies has increasingly been replaced by short-term expediencies dominated by data collection and information management e orts ( Batty 1989 ). This dramatic shift of urban modelling e orts from public to private has profound social implications given the wide adoption and di usion of GIS technology in society ( Pickles 1995). Private sector modelling e orts tend to be more pro t-driven rather than motivated by grand socio-economic goals of e ciency and equity. These e orts toward integrating GIS with urban modelling, coupled with emerging computer networks such as the Internet for various social economic activities, have fundamentally transformed our conceptions of cities and urban life (Sui 1997). Almost everything in our cities is becoming digital or is digitally presentable, and hence easier for all kinds of manipulation and simulation. Popular urban simulation games such as SimCity are at the nger tips of ve-year olds. This phenomenon has been referred to as `computable cities ( Batty 1995). According to Batty ( 1995, 3 ), `Within 50 years, everything around us will be some form of computer and the ways we will access this and use it to interact with each other will be through software. However, I think we should not uncritically accept the computability of cities. Many assumptions behind current GIS-based urban modelling e orts should be critically scrutinized. Dazzling technical progress tends to blind us to more critical issues such as what it is we are trying to model and why.
3. Computable cities and the computability of cities: existing problems

With cities becoming increasingly computable, the computability of cities has been challenged by numerous social theorists ( Lake 1993, Pickles 1995). Besides philosophical critiques at the ontological, epistemological, methodological, and ethical levels (Sui 1994), I would like to discuss the following two substantive issues in the current practices of GIS-based urban modelling. 3.1. Problems of the urban models. Although conventional urban modelling coupled with GIS is still practiced worldwide ( Batty 1994, Wegener 1994 ), the fundamental assumptions in these models need to be re-evaluated. With the massive transformation from an industrial to an informational society, the urban models integrated with GIS via various strategies outlined above fail to adequately describe the new urban forms and processes in Western society. These models were developed for the industrial cities with the goal of controlling land use and containing the impacts of the automobile, and they are inappropriate for modelling cities in the information age. For example, various modi ed versions of the Lowry-Garin model for land use and transportation planning represent a fusion of gravitational concepts underpinning spatial interaction with macro-economic theory as re ected in input-output and economic base models. These models are essentially spatial interaction models ( based upon Newtonian social physics) coupled with a crude economic base mechanism ( based upon Keyenesian economics) . Besides those vocal critics of urban modelling, such as Douglas Lee ( 1973 ) and Andrew Sayer ( 1979 ), modelers themselves have begun to admit that this type of model represents a rather narrow conception of cities ( Batty 1989 ). Lowry-Garin models characterize cities as being comprised of distinct land use types that can be articulated in measurable economic and demographic activities.


D. Z. Sui

The model was designed to locate such activities in spatial units usually represented by zones at the census tract level. Spatial interaction and trip-making were embodied in gravitational analogues while model structure was conceived along simple econometric lines. The assumptions of the economic base model as being unidirectional in causation have been challenged by several researchers, and the division between the basic versus the non-basic sector is arbitrary. With the transition to a postindustrial society, the growth of multinational corporations, and the sharp decline of the manufacturing base (Castells 1989 ), the basic and non-basic split in the local economy is becoming more ambiguous, if not meaningless, and in some areas, we have even witnessed the wholesale disappearance of the traditional basic sector for some time. With this fundamentally di erent urban reality, urban models must be reconceived in order to be useful in the planning and decision making process. Several advances have been made in the formation of spatial interaction models, such as Wilsons entropy maximization or McFaddens random utility maximization, and the introduction of numerous new mathematical techniques such as catastrophe theory, chaos theory, and self-organizing concepts ( Bertuglia et al . 1990, Nijkamp and Reggiami 1992, Roy 1996). However, these techniques pertain mostly to model estimation and speci cation. They tend to be technique-based rather than substancebased, focusing more on the syntax than the semantics of urban modelling. Those new urban modelling e orts based upon cellular automata and fractals, although conceptually interesting, are still at an experiential stage and to what extent those e orts may contribute to our understanding of urban forms and urban processes remains to be seen. E orts are also being made to model urban development using derived land use units instead of the xed census tract boundaries (Landis 1995 ), but these models still inherit the conceptual foundations that have long been abandoned by urban planners and policy makers. In sum, it is quite obvious that we cannot a ord to remain oblivious to the conceptual de ciencies of these urban models even though they have been successfully integrated with GIS and may be still applicable in some developing countries. There is a crying need for models that can capture the new urban reality of the information age. 3.2. Problems of GIS With its historical roots in computer cartography and digital image processing, the development of GIS to date has relied upon a limited map metaphor ( Harris and Batty 1993, Burrough and Frank 1995). Consequently, the representation schemes and analytical functionalities in GIS are geared toward map layers and geometric transformations. The layer approach implicitly forces a segmentation of geographical features ( Peuquet 1988, Raper and Livingstone 1995 ). This representation scheme is not only temporally xed but is also incapable of handling overlapping features (Gazelton et al . 1992). Perhaps more importantly, as so many GIS theorists have pointed out, underneath this crude map metaphor in the current generation of GIS is an implicit conceptualization of absolute space based upon Newtonian mechanics (Couclelis 1991, Gatrell 1991 ). The absolute conceptualization of space has forced space into a geometrically indexed representation scheme via planar enforcement. In contrast, embedded in various urban models is essentially a relative/ relational conceptualization of space, as manifested in various kinds of spatial structure, spatial dynamics, and spatial organization models. This relative view of space is not compatible with the notion of space built into commercially available GIS, either as an inert assembly of polygons or as a lattice of raster cells. Although

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technically we can plug in various urban models into GIS through the strategies outlined in the previous section, GIS and urban models are not really integrated because of the di erent spatial data representation schemes involved (Abel et al . 1994 ). Therefore, in order to accomplish the seamless integration of GIS and urban models, we need to conduct research at a higher level, that is to develop and incorporate novel approaches to conceptualizing space and time. Obviously, the current practices of integrating GIS and urban modelling are essentially technical in nature and have not touched upon the more fundamental issues in either urban models or GIS. We have succeeded only in putting old wines in new bottles an improved means for unimproved ends. Simply being able to run a Lowry type model in Arc/Info improves neither the theoretical foundation nor the performance of the model. GIS-based urban modeling, like GIS-based environmental modeling ( Raper and Livingstone 1995), has resulted in a tremendous amount of representational compromise. Such problems call for a fresh look at the integration of GIS with urban modelling. We must think above and beyond the technical domain on this issue. Instead of being dictated by GIS technology, the emerging geographical information science (GISci ) itself should drive the next round of urban modelling e orts.
4. GISci-based urban modelling: future prospects

Problems in the current practices of GIS-based urban modelling can not be resolved if we continue to treat the integration of GIS with urban modelling as essentially a technical issue. Instead, we must challenge the implicit assumptions behind urban models and GIS, and shift our research e orts to more fundamental issues in conceiving and representing the urban reality in the appropriate spatialtemporal framework during the information age. We need to switch our research e orts to a broader conceptual basis and frame our future research agenda from a geographical information science perspective in order to avoid being trapped in the narrowly de ned technical issues researchers have pursued so far. To set up the context for GISci-based urban modelling, it would be instructive to take a quick look at the core elements of GISci. 4.1. Elements of geographical information science (GISci) Since Goodchild ( 1992) rst raised the banner of a new discipline called geographic information science, the GIS community has increasingly recognized the importance of transcending the limits of GIS technology to focus on the more generic issues in spatial data handling. During the past ve years, the GIS community has responded enthusiastically to Goodchilds call, as evidenced by the establishment of the new university consortium of geographical information science in the US, the development of the new on-line GISci. curriculum, and the publication of several new journals in GISci. Although still in its infancy, and the disciplinary status may be debatable, the three core elements of a geographical information science as articulated in a recent NCGIA proposal are crucial for a research agenda on GIScibased urban modelling ( NCGIA 1996 a). These three core elements in GISci. are: 1.
Cognitive models of geographical space . NCGIA contends that our understanding of key geographical concepts and their appropriate representations is currently incomplete. The rst area GISci should investigate is how key geographical concepts such as space and time have been conceptualized by


D. Z. Sui

Figure 2.

GISci-based urban modelling: major tasks.



di erent people and di erent disciplines. As ease of use is increasingly important in the information age, studies on fundamental geographical concepts will be critical for us to better understand the geographical world around us. Computatio nal implementations of geographical concepts . This area concentrates on building new computational models of geographical spaces and the social and environmental processes that operate in them. Exploring the best computational strategy for the implementation of various conceptualizations of space will promote interoperability among di erent computational models. Geographies of the information society . This element focuses on the positive and negative impacts of technology on individuals, organizations, and society. GISci examines what kinds of new spatial relationships are emerging in the new information society and what the societal impacts are by introducing GIS into various facets of our social practices. These three core areas in GISci provide us a broad guideline for the future research of GISci-based urban modelling. I believe that the success of GISci-based urban modelling will depend upon how successfully we have developed new urban models, new conceptualizations of space and time, and their e cient /interoperable implementations on various new computing platforms ( gure 2).

4.2. T he development of new urban models This is closely related to the topic of geographies of the information society in GISci. Since the urban models developed so far no longer adequately describe the urban reality in the information age, we need to develop new models that capture the form, process, and policy aspects of this new reality. It is generally conceded among social scientists that a technological revolution of historic proportions is dramatically transforming the fundamental dimensions of urban society (Graham and Marvin 1996, Couclelis 1996 ). The voluminous recent urban literature on world cities, especially North American cities, is replete with assertions that a major reorganization of the spatial structure of cities is underway. A series of distinctive new urban forms is emerging from a complex interplay among social, economic, political, and cultural forces ( Bourne 1991 ). It has been argued that these new forms

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Figure 3.

Elements of an integrated model for informational cities.

are characterized by the continued decentralization of both population and employment, the increasing levels of social diversity and spatial polarization, the emergence of an elite gentri ed inner city, and the deepening spatial mismatch between jobs and labour. These new urban forms have been attributed to societal, institutional, and individual decision making processes. Numerous policy proposals have been made for various development scenarios for cities in the twenty- rst century, ranging from going back to a more compact pedestrian-based urban form, to stimulating the development of a completely footloose electropolis. In order to weave all these di erent aspects of urban studies into a coherent research agenda, we need to develop and articulate a new, eclectic, and inclusive conceptual framework. I believe that the new theoretical framework should have three integral components (Sui 1996). First, it should enable us to describe the new emerging urban form s in more comprehensive ways. Second, it should empower us to explain the underlying processes contributing to the emerging new urban forms. Third, it should o er us new insights to prescribe e ective urban policies to redirect the underlying processes to promote the most desirable urban forms. It is beyond the scope of this paper to present detailed discussions on this synthetic framework. Instead, the following is a broad-brush outline of the crucial elements of this urban research framework ( gure 3 ). 4.2.1. Urban forms A metropolis in the twenty- rst century will be a tale of three di erent, but interrelated, cities. The speci c urban forms will be determined by the interplay of the following three components:

T echnopolis . Scholars have used a variety of di erent names to refer to this emerging technopolis, ranging from electropolis and wired cities to city of bits, computational city, and virtual community. Technopolis, narrowly de ned, refers to the constellation of massive transportation, telecommunications, and information networks to move goods, people, and information; it is a combination of wheels, wires, and air waves. Technopolis, especially the


D. Z. Sui

city of bits, or the on-line virtual community, has attracted considerable attention in recent years, but our knowledge of the wired cities remains nothing more than futuristic prophecies, as presented in Mitchells City of Bits (Mitchell 1995 ). Concerted research e orts are needed for understanding this emerging new urban form. Because of the partial invisibility of the technopolis (such as the information ow through the telecommunication network), modelling and understanding it poses a new challenge for urban scholars. Ecumonopolis . Ecumonopolis is also known as the sustainable city or the ecological city. Daunting urban environmental problems have caused planners to rethink the development policies of the past. The development of ecumenopolis, with its goal of seeking harmony between human beings and their surrounding environment, has increasingly become an integral part of urban development policy all over the world. The technopolis should be developed in harmony with the environment and ultimately to become an ecumenopolis. Anthropopolis . The central component of the metropolis of the future will be the residents in the cities. To make future cities become anthropopolis is to make future metropolis become truly the city of / for the people. The concept of anthropopolis emphasizes the satisfaction of human needs and the quality of urban life as the ultimate goal for all future endeavors. We should strive to make technopolis and ecumenopolis serve this goal. Transportation networks, communication networks, and urban environments should be designed so as to stimulate the kind of life we would like to live. The goal of developing an anthropopolis is to make all human activities ( i.e., where we work, where we live and shop, and where we go to entertain ourselves) as enjoyable as possible. Telecommunications and computer technologies have played increasingly important roles in these activities, and yet we are not sure to what extent they are substitutive, complementary, or synergistic to traditional means of conducting them.

With these three interrelated metropolis in mind, we should make concerted research e orts to understand the optimal urban forms for the cities in the next millennium. Do we want the relentless urban sprawl to continue, as facilitated by the development of new transportation, communication, and information technologies? Or should we go back to more compact pedestrian-oriented urban forms as proposed by some leading urban planners in order to better ful ll the ideal sense of community, sustainability, and social equity? Our understanding of the new urban forms will de nitely help us to answer these questions. 4.2.2. Urban processes The processes contributing to the formation of urban forms are extraordinarily complex, and numerous theoretical perspectives have been developed during the past two decades to explain them. I believe that future urban theory should take a more holistic approach. The hierarchical theory I am proposing can be broken down into the following three levels:

Micro-level processes. This is the individual level process using a behavioral approach from theories and concepts of neo-classical economics and behavioral geography (Golledge and Stimson 1997).

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Meso-level processes. At this intermediate level, attention should be paid to the roles and behaviors of private and public institutions. We need to examine how such institutions shape urban development trajectory and thus result in di erent urban forms. Macro-level processes. At this level, we should bring the general societal trends into consideration, putting urban development into perspectives of political economy, economic transformation, long wave rhythms, and world systems.

4.2.3. Urban policies I believe future policy goals should strive to achieve balance among the following objectives:

Economic e ciency . To develop policies to intervene at the individual, institutional, and societal levels to optimize economic e ciency in technopolis at both the intra and inter-urban levels to facilitate the ows of goods, people, and information. Social equity . To design policies to intervene at the individual, institutional, and societal levels to make the anthropopolis truly socially equitable so that the metropolis will become a city for everybody, with equal access to all di erent kinds of information and services and equal shares of environmental burdens. Environmental sustainability . To initiate policies to intervene at the individual, institutional, and societal levels to make the ecumenopolis environmentally sustainable, with plenty of safe water, clean air, and diversi ed urban natural habitat.

Indeed the information city poses new challenges for us and entails additional spatial and temporal dimensions of social and economic activities. New urban realities demand new urban models. These models should incorporate processes at the individual, institutional, and societal levels to achieve the goals of economic e ciency, environmental sustainability, and social equity for the metropolis of the twenty- rst century in which the technopolis, ecumonopolis, and anthropopolis are synergistically and artfully integrated. This new type of city demands that we must develop alternative spatial-temporal representation frameworks in the digital environment in order to model the urban reality realistically. 4.3. Alternative conceptualiz ations of space and time The telemediated cities not only assume new urban forms, undergo fundamentally di erent urban processes, and demand new urban policies, but also stimulate dramatic changes in the spatial/ temporal rhythms of society (Graham and Marvin 1996, Castells 1997). The rigid spatial-temporal framework embedded in the current generation of GIS is too restrictive to capture the current urban reality. The next generation of GIS must incorporate multiple dimensions of space and time in order to become a exible platform to implement various new urban models simulating the information cities. The alternative conceptualization of space and time that is more compatible with the new spatial-temporal rhythms will be one of the most important cornerstones for the implementation of the next generation of GIS.


D. Z. Sui

4.3.1. Alternative conceptualiz ations of space Philosophers from Aristotle to Kant have developed drastically di erent views of space, with varying degrees of objectivity and subjectivity and di erent conceptualizations regarding the relationship between space and substance ( Sack 1980, Couclelis 1993, Curry 1996 ). Based upon Penroses concepts of three worlds ( Penrose 1994 ), I would like to group the di erent conceptualizations of spaces into three major groups for the clarity of discussion ( gure 4):

Formal /mathematical spaces. This is the space in the Platonic world of forms, usually based upon mathematical axioms. Among the three major type of spaces, the formal/mathematical space is perhaps logically the most consistent and conceptually the most elegant. Although philosophers and scientists alike still have a hard time explaining the ontological status of these abstract representations, various formal/mathematical spaces have framed our ways of viewing the world since the dawn of civilization. From Euclidean geometry to N -dimensional algebraic spaces, from Hamiltons state/ phase space to geometrical behaviour of vectors in Hilbert space, from cellular automata to fractal geometry, each of these inventions or discoveries of new mathematical spaces have drastically reshaped our perspectives toward the physical and social-economic processes in the empirical world. Physical /Socio-Econo mic Spaces . This is the space created by various disciplines in both physical and social sciences. Although closely tied to formal/ mathematical spaces, di erent kinds of physical/ socio-economic spaces have di erent manifestations. The major dividing line is the absolute versus. the relative conceptualization of space. The Newtonian (absolute) view treats

Figure 4.

Three Worlds and Three Di erent Kinds of Spaces (Modi ed after Penrose [1994 ]).

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space as an empty container, independent of the objects within. Whereas the Leibnizian (relative) view of space contends that space and substances are inseparable, and space is primarily de ned by the interrelationships among the objects. Einsteins theory of relativity injected not only the Leibnizian view of space but also a novel conception of time or space-time into the twentieth century consciousness. The shift from the Newtonian absolute view of space and time to Einsteins relative view of space-time has exerted farreaching in uence in our e orts to understand socio-economic processes in society. Thrift and Olds ( 1996 ) nicely summarized how the shift to di erent conceptualizations of space may assist us in recon guring our views of the fundamental changes of economic processes in information society. The four topological propositions they discussed in terms of bounded regions, networks, ows, and non-locality will have profound implications on how we actually conceptualize the emerging new socio-economic process ( Thrift and Olds 1996 ). Subjective / Experiential spaces. This is the space in the human mind. How space is manifested in the human mind has always been a major scholarly interest. Some philosophers, such as Kant, even speculated that space is a synthetic a priori an innate precondition of human intellect that makes our understanding the world possible. According to many Kantian and neoKantian scholars, space is not another thing in the world, but a framework created in our mind by the interaction of human reason with the world. Human perceptions of space can be very di erent from the mathematical spaces or physical spaces. Studies in cognitive science, behavioural geography, and recent research e orts on the so-called naive geography exploring the common sense model of the real world have revealed new dimensions of space in the human mind ( Parks and Thrift 1980, Frank et al . 1992, Egenhofer and Mark 1995, Mark and Egenhofer 1996) . In the meantime, critical social theorists have been arguing that space is produced entirely by various social processes the social production of space ( Lefebvre 1991).

All these alternative conceptions of space have developed di erent vocabularies to describe the world (table 1). Can these alternative views about space be implemented in a digital environment? 4.3.2. Alternative conceptualiz ations of time The representation of time in GIS is almost non-existent in the current generation of GIS. Although many researchers have devoted their e orts toward incorporating the temporal element in GIS ( Langran 1992, Peuquet 1994, Al-Taha et al . 1994 ),
Table 1. Three spaces and their sample terminologies (Modi ed after Couclelis (1992 )). Physical / Socio-Economic Location /Origin Network / Route Region Plain Distribution / Flows Subjective / Experiential Place / Landmark Way/ Path Territory / Neighborhood Environment / Domain World /Spatial Layout

Formal / Mathematical Point ( 0-D) Line (1-D) Area ( 2-D) Surface ( 3-D) Con guration


D. Z. Sui

alternative ways of conceptualizing time should also be explored ( Worboys 1995). Similar to space, time can also be conceptualized by dramatically di erent structures ( gure 5 ). For example, time can be either conceptualized as a discrete or a continuous variable ( gure 5 (a )); time may be linearly or partially ordered or may form a temporal cycle exhibiting periodicities ( gure 5 (b )); or time may be associated with time points, intervals (durations) or disjoint unions of time intervals ( gure 5 (c)). Stephen Hawking ( 1996 ) eloquently presented three views of linear time models, from the cosmological arrow (the direction in which the universe increases in size) to the thermodynamic arrow (the direction in which disorder increases) to the psychological arrow(the direction in which we perceive time pass). In a sense, these three temporal models parallel the three major types of spaces. Besides these linear time models, we should also explore the implications of various non-linear cyclic models that may be more appropriate for many phenomena we are trying to model. These alternative views of space and time will broaden the theoretical foundations of GIS technology. So far GIS is based upon a Newtonian absolute representation of space coupled with the crude conception of linear time slicing. GISci-based urban modeling should explore the new dimensions of space and time, and take a holistic approach about the multidimensionality of space and time in order to more realistically capture the new urban dynamics during the information age. Modeling the new urban realities demands that we shift our conceptions of space and time to new dimensions such as the Leibnizian and Kantian view of space and a non-linear conception of time. Perhaps, what is more challenging is how to operationalize the concept of space-time instead of the Cartesian/ Newtonian concept of space and time. These alternative representation schemes for space, time, and space-time will not only lay a new conceptual foundation for GIS technology, but also turn out to be more e ective in many speci c applications, such as applications of various subjective/experiential conceptualizations of space in car navigation systems and navigation aids for the visually impaired, etc. Several new research initiatives are already moving towards these new directions, such as NCGIAs initiative 19 on GIS and Society; initiative 21 on Na ve, etc. Geography ( Frank et al . 1992, NCGIA 1996 b, Raper in press).

Figure 5.

Alternative conceptualizatio ns of temporal structure (After Worboys [1995 ]).

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Figure 6.

Dimensions of a feature-based urban GIS (modi ed after Usery (1996 )).

4.4. Computatio nal implementation strategies To implement these new urban models and spatial-temporal concepts, we need to develop new computational models and implementation strategies. It should be recognized, however, that not all of the new urban models and alternative conceptualizations of space and time can be implemented using the Turing computer as we know it today. Although the development of quantum computers may blaze a new holy grail in computation ( Deutsch 1997), our understanding of the new urban reality will be ultimately based upon a combination of computers and human judgment. But for those urban models and alternative spatial-temporal concepts that can be computerized, we should strive to develop the best computational model for their implementations. In the near future, I believe that the implementation of new urban models will hinge on two core concepts the feature-based GIS and the interoperable GIS. To transcend the static, two- dimensional map metaphor, as being currently implemented in GIS, Lynn Userys feature-based GIS ( FBGIS) model seems to be a promising strategy to implement new urban models and the multi-


D. Z. Sui

dimensions of space-time ( Usery 1996). Unlike the layer-based GIS in which we try to t a map layer containing geographical entities into a Cartesian coordinate system (an absolute conceptualization of space and time), the FBGIS lends us a new conceptual framework to implement those alternative views of space and time and various new models depicting the physical and socio-economic processes in the real world ( Tang et al . 1996 ). In a feature-based GIS, space, time and themes are de ned as integral parts of a geographical feature instead of referencing all the entities into an arbitrary Cartesian grid. By providing direct access to spatial, temporal and thematic attributes, the FBGIS is not constrained to map and layered representations of geography and thus supports multiple dimensions of spatial/ temporal events. However, there is a crucial element missing from the current version of Userys FBGIS the de nition of operations on a feature. The FBGIS model should be further expanded to incorporate the dual aspects of the object-oriented paradigm the simultaneous de nition of state and functionality for an object ( Worboys 1994). The de nition of operations on a feature should be included as an integral part of a feature. As some preliminary results have indicated ( Ralston 1993, Raper and Livingston 1995 ), the inclusion of operations in the feature de nition, together with its capabilities of encapsulation, inheritance/ composition, overloading, and polymorphism, can greatly facilitate the implementation of various spatial analysis and modelling techniques. The other very important computing trend is to cultivate the interoperability of software products across distributed computing platforms ( DCPs) according to the concept of the Open Geo-data Interoperability Speci cation (OGIS) (McKee 1996). The concept of OGIS and interoperablity has already stimulated new software development trends in the industry, and is also gaining attention among academic researchers ( Egenhofer and Goodchild 1997, Evans 1997 ). Instead of developing a fully integrated GIS, software vendors and researchers are exploring new ways of developing a much leaner core module with numerous more task speci c, embeddable modules. These object-oriented, embeddable modules can not only be easily integrated into a core GIS package but also be seamlessly integrated with other application programs. In addition, with explosive growth of both the Internet and the Intranet, the development of web-based software tools is necessary so that whoever has access to the Internet can run the program regardless of the location of the user. ESRIs MapObjects and the new map server on the Internet are an important step toward full interoperability. As evidenced by Lin and Zhang ( 1998 ), new platformindependent software development tools such as Java de nitely provide us the potential to develop GIS-based urban modelling and simulation tools as easily accessible and user friendly as SimCity (Macmillan 1996).
5. Concluding remarks: beyond models, beyond technologies

This paper has reviewed the practices, the problems, and the prospects of GISbased urban modelling. Although we have seen some technical progress during the past ten years, the integration of GIS with urban modeling is essentially technologydriven without adequate justi cation for the validity of the models and the suitability of the spatial-temporal framework embedded in the current generation of GIS. By reframing the future research agenda from a geographical information science perspective, the author contends that the integration of urban modelling with GIS must proceed with the development of new models for the informational cities, the incorporation of multi-dimensional concepts of space and time in GIS, and the expansion

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of a feature-based strategy for the implementation of these new urban models and spatial-temporal concepts using object-oriented and web-based programming tools. GISci-based urban modelling will not only equip us with new computational models and implementation strategies that are interoperable and embeddable across computing platforms, but also liberate us from the constraints of existing urban models and the rigid spatial-temporal framework embedded in the current generation of GIS. This paradigm shift in urban modelling will enable us to think above and beyond the technical issues that have occupied us during the past ten years. Last, but not least, I would like to emphasize that our future research e orts need to be tied more closely to urban policies. There have been growing disparities between what we purport to describe and manipulate using sophisticated theoretical frameworks and technical tools in virtual reality and our ability to say anything meaningful about what actually happens in urban reality. Just as Gunnar Olsson ( 1974 ) put it so aptly 20 years ago: `what the analysis yielded was not more knowledge of the phenomena the model was speaking about : what it revealed was instead the hidden structure the model was speaking within ( p. 61). The new research agenda must strike a balance between the sophistication of our techniques/ methods and the real world phenomena we are talking about. We need new frameworks, new models, and new concepts, but we must strive to translate these new structures and models into meaningful policies and languages that society can appreciate and understand and thus help us to build a more human urban society. Rigorous conceptual frameworks should be coupled with meticulous empirical analysis and realistic policy implications using state-of-the-art techniques. Otherwise, our research e orts may become another self-indulging academic exercise.
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