To content
Department of Spatial Planning
In the nexus of planning, geographic information science, and geography

Our mission and research

The Spatial Modelling Lab (RAM) is a cutting edge research centre at the interface of geographic information science, spatial planning, and geography. We are committed to understanding how geographical spaces are reflected in information structures. In this context, our research investigates conceptual representations of geographies, as well as their processing and modelling. These themes are also reflected in our teaching portfolio, which covers a wide range of topics, including quantitative geography, urban and spatial analytical methods, and selected computer science topics relevant to planners.

One of the main research strands of RAM is methodological and deals with spatial-statistical approaches. Our research investigates existing approaches from the spatial statistical toolbox. We are interested in how these methods interact with different types of datasets and what their results mean in practice. In addition, we explore new approaches for the disclosure and modelling of spatial structures. Our work thereby focuses on estimators of spatial autocorrelation, hotspot statistics, measures of spatial heterogeneity, and spatial filtering techniques. A special focus of our work is the spatial statistical analysis of user-generated geographic information, such as that extracted from social media feeds. Due to their collaborative character, these datasets are characterised by a high degree of heterogeneity and complex geographical associations. Understanding how established methods work in conjunction with these novel datasets, and exploring new ways to study them in a spatial-analytical manner is a key research topic of the Spatial Modelling Lab.

The Spatial Modelling Lab also engages in the emerging field of place-based ('platial') information. People interact with their personal geographic spaces on an everyday basis. This includes human activity spaces (the everyday local areas in which we move), spaces to which we feel emotionally attached and to which we ascribe meaning (our personal, subjective everyday geography), and affordances (functions provided by our local geography). This view of geographical space is the usual modus operandi in human geography. However, this so-called place space does not lend itself easily to formalisation and quantitative approaches. New ways of representing such complex and highly relevant human geographic spaces are needed, and the Spatial Modelling Lab contributes to this ambitious endeavour. We investigate how to conceptualise and formalise complex places, how they can be processed analytically, how people represent places in information, and how places can be visualised. A special topic of RAM in the context of platial research is to investigate how information about often idiosyncratic places can be statistically processed. In this way, the Spatial Modelling Lab contributes to important analytical advances for the toolboxes of spatial planning and geography.

RAM is also committed to applied research. A third topic to which the lab contributes is thus quantitative geography, where we apply spatial statistical methods to answer complex geographical questions. Our research in this area addresses topics as diverse as location-based games, check-in patterns, and the geographical access to basic banking services. These quantitative geographic studies are usually conducted with a wide range of national and international partners. We therefore see this type of research as a fruitful catalyst and interface to link our methodological findings and new techniques with empirical research from spatial planning, geography, urban studies, mobility research and other fields. Furthermore, our methodological research topics are often embedded in empirical subjects. In this way, we combine our methodological research with empirical contributions.