Spatial Relationships

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Spatial Relationships

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Despite the emphasis placed on it in Section 2.1, Basic Primitives, and in spatial analysis generally, location is not in itself very interesting. While latitude does generally tend to predict average annual temperature, there are obvious exceptions (Iceland is much warmer in winter than Irkutsk, yet it is further north), and longitude is essentially arbitrary. The power of location comes not from location itself, but from the linkages or relationships that it establishes — from relative positions rather than absolute ones. This section looks at examples of those relationships, as fundamental concepts in spatial analysis. Some have already been mentioned as examples of topological properties, including adjacency, connectivity, and containment. Others are introduced in the subsections that follow, with examples of their significance.

Another way to think about this important point is to examine how the results of spatial analysis are affected by imagined changes in location. The patterns of crime in Los Angeles would be as interesting whether the city was analyzed in its correct location, or if it were arbitrarily relocated to another place on the Earth’s surface — patterns are invariant under displacement. Similarly the city could be rotated, or analyzed in its mirror image, without substantially affecting the insights that spatial analysis would reveal. Under all of these operations — displacement, rotation, and mirror imaging — the relative locations of objects remain the same, and it is these relative locations that provide insight.