"Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?" A question of a native Guinean in "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond. Our life depends on natural, social, cultural, and economic environments, and they vary a great deal in both spatial and temporal dimensions. Jared argues that the variation in human society has been shaped by geographical and environmental factors. His detailed and thorough discussion is based on his vast knowledge in geography, genetics, molecular biology, behavioral ecology, epidemiology, linguistic and archaeology.
Spatial information science gives us a more objective and quantitative perspective to answer the above question. How the mountainous topography has been determined the form of Japanese cities? Is there any relationship between the climate and food culture? What happens when different cultures meet? Why the retail structure is spatially so complicated? Spatial information science is a very effective tool for answering these questions.
Our life also affects our surrounding environments. We form social, cultural, and linguistic environments. We coexist with natural environment. This is a human-environments system. Spatial information science gives us a means for revealing the underlying structure of the system and seeking a desirable relationship between human beings and environments.
Our life, especially urban life, requires facilities and infrastructures. Schools, fire and police stations, traffic networks, and administrative facilities need to be appropriately located, operated, and managed. Unfortunately, it is often quite difficult under limited economic and labor resources to find the optimal solution. This also applies to route planning. Route planning covers a wide range of routes, from our daily commuting, shopping, and travelling, to bus and tram networks and evacuation routes. It is quite a complicated task since it requires to consider the economic, physical, and mental costs.
Spatial information science is an effective means for solving such complicated problems. The optimal location and route as well as other desirable alternatives can be derived by implementing an interactive decision support system on GIS. Local governments have to find a desirable location of schools in collaboration with residents and experts. Closure and integration of existing facilities are also critical in the era of population decline for efficient and practical urban environment. Interactive and flexible decision support systems need to be developed for facility location and route planning.
Territories of clans in the Edo period, old roads expanding from Edo, Japanese surnames, railway and bus routes, distributions of sake breweries and brewers, location of bending machines. Their maps attract us and raise a question: how do these spatial phenomena and distributions have been formed? Challenges to answer this simple but difficult question to answer may seem not academic. However, they drastically extend the applicability of spatial information science and have a great potential for provoking new spatial concepts and developing new analytical methods. The final goal is to construct a holistic framework of spatial analysis applicable to any spatial phenomenon.