Profiling places: geodemographics and GIS
The increasing importance of geographical location as a way to analyse social and environmental phenomena stems, on the one hand, from advances in technology and the availability of digital data linked to a specific place and, on the other, by the recognition that society is becoming ever more complex and that multiple analytical perspectives are needed to make sense of it, to identify possible action, to target resources and to monitor outcomes. The increased use of geographic information systems (GIS) – that is, of computerized systems specifically designed to analyse geographic data – is clearly an important component of this trend, and for this reason we devote much of this chapter to this technology and its applications for crime analysis. Nevertheless, it is also important to highlight the broader picture in order to understand future directions, to exploit opportunities and to reduce possible threats. As an example, the rapid development of companies providing location-based services, such as maps (e.g. www.multimap.com), routing (e.g. www.viamichelin.com), neighbourhood information (www. upmystreet.com) and, more recently, Google Earth, which provides highdefinition satellite imagery and 3D urban models for many urban areas around the world (http://earth.google.com) (see Figure 21.1), is witness to the popularization of geography as a way to view the world and to publish, search and access information. Above all, these services point to a paradigmatic shift from computer systems used by specialists in the close bounds of their offices to web-based services enabling information access, analysis and use by the public at large, anytime, anywhere. This offers many opportunities but also raises many organizational, technical, ethical, security and educational challenges, as we discuss in this chapter.