Categories: GIS Software

Multi-view GIS

While GIS is widely adopted, one area of the humanities and social sciences that has critiqued their use is the post-processual school of thought. It largely criticizes how GIS generally provides a top down or overview look to a given space where data are often given as is.[1] In essence, it usually provides one perspective where data, such as names, visual perspective, and history, of a given location are assumed to be true for all users.

Why Offer Multiple Views of a Map?

Current examples where such perspectives are not given in simply one perspective of view include Google Earth, where territorial disputes are shown differently to users from different countries depending where they use the application.Other types of relevant examples include applications where data from multiple perspectives or view are shown together, with each providing different ways to look at a given space or data. Users then can chose to look at one or multiple types of perspectives for a given point of interest, depending on what the user sees fit.[2] In the area of tourism, for instance, a perspective of the visitor versus that of a manager of the area are likely to be different with contrasting goals.

For Chinese users Google Maps show Arunachal Pradesh as part of China

For Indian Users, Google maps shows Arunachal Pradesh as part of India.

For users outside of India and China, Arunachal Pradesh is showed using dotted lines as a disputed region.

Using GIS to Create Ringmaps and Augmented Reality

There are many ways in which multiple views can be provided. This includes intertwining views so that views are embedded within other views, giving dual perspectives together. An example of this is ringmaps, with the inner ring reserved for a separate view. Ringmaps can also be modified to create multiple scales, including large and small views of a given space that the viewer can choose to focus on. Small multiples are another view where thumbnail images are incorporated with a layer that provide temporal or different data information for a given layer. These approaches have been created as plugins for ArcGIS. Additional approaches have been around for some time in addressing this issue as well, including where user input is provided to given a new perspective of a given space. For example in augmented or virtual reality GIS, images are sometimes draped, perhaps photographs taken by users, within a setting to enhance a view of the landscape. Panoramic videos as well as photographs from viewers are then directly incorporated into a given GIS platform view; examples of this include Visual Nature Studio.[3]

Intertwining views of sightseeing and eating patterns of tourists on the West Coast of New Zealand over 3 days. In spatial ringmap, each ring represents a sub-regional zone ordered from North to South working outwards. Each sector represents one hour starting from zero o’clock of the first day. The spatial ringmap and the inset map display the temporal and the overall volume of sightseeing (colour) and eating (extrusion) activities in the 20 sub-regional zones respectively. From: Zhao et al., 2013.


[1] For a critique of GIS using a post-processual approach, see: Wickstead, H. 2009. “The Uber Archaeologist: Art, GIS and the Male Gaze Revisited.” Journal of Social Archaeology 9 (2): 249–71. doi:10.1177/1469605309104138.


[2] For an example application using multi-view perspectives for tourist activities, see:  Zhao, Jinfeng, Pip Forer, Qian Sun, and David Simmons. 2013. “Multiple-View Strategies for Enhanced Understanding of Dynamic Tourist Activity through Geovisualization at Regional and National Scales.” Cartography and Geographic Information Science 40 (4): 349–60.

[3] For more on the use of visual user input for augmented reality perspectives, see:  Ghadirian, Payam, and Ian D. Bishop. 2008. “Integration of Augmented Reality and GIS: A New Approach to Realistic Landscape Visualisation.” Landscape and Urban Planning 86 (3-4): 226–32.

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