On the way to platial analysis: Can geosocial media provide the necessary impetus?

The recent availability of user-generated geographic datasets allows gaining novel insights into otherwise hardly observable societal phenomena. Geosocial media forms one important source of user-generated information, which partly describes the everyday lives of people. The analysis of these kinds of data, however, requires new approaches. Geosocial media data—like those extracted from Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, and others—differ from established sources in that they are largely inherently platial in nature. People provide their own subjective opinions or perceptions, and taken together these represent the digital social imagination of places. Crisp and objective geographic data primitives like points, lines or polygons are not necessarily the preferable units for analysing these kinds of information. Platial analysis approaches are thus needed to fully exploit the potential of geosocial media and related data. Yet, while human geographers and social scientists have been theorizing on the concept of place since a long time, and despite of invocations by leading GIScience researchers, we are still lacking a universal theory on the formalization of places and how to make them available to quantitative and other GIS-related analysis strategies. Partly, this lack has been due to the insufficient availability of platial data, but the appearance of geosocial media might change this condition. It is therefore time to rethink our geographical analysis strategies with a focus on “place” instead of “space”.

We therefore encourage you to participate in our two-day workshop for discussing the following topics:

  • How could existing GIScience theories on space be integrated with the human-geographic and philosophical notion of place?
  • How can we—analogous to points, lines and polygons—derive platial units as counterparts to the established GIS primitives?
  • How is it possible to establish and quantify relationships between adjacent places?
  • What might be a suitable strategy for aggregating subjective platial information?
  • What are the roles of uncertainty, fuzziness, and subjectivity in a place-based theory of geographical information?
  • In which ways can places be visualized, and how can we do that at multiple scales?
  • How can platial analysis be integrated with applied research agendas from neighbouring disciplines like sociology/regional science, urban planning, or human geography?
  • How to align Tobler’s first law of geography with a platial notion of geospatial analysis?
  • Further topics are welcome if they fit the overall theme of this workshop.

Apart from discussing the above topics, it is our particular goal to establish an interdisciplinary dialogue involving geographers, computer scientists, social scientists, and other related scholars.


René Westerholt, Heidelberg University, westerholt@uni-heidelberg.de

Franz-Benjamin Mocnik, Heidelberg University, mocnik@uni-heidelberg.de

Alexander Zipf, Heidelberg University, zipf@uni-heidelberg.de


The final version of the workshop proceedings is published! You find the full volume referenced by the DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1475269.

If you are interested in individual workshop contributions, please find them listed and linked below:

Franz-Benjamin MOCNIK,
Alexander ZIPF
Editorial: Introduction to the PLATIAL’18 Workshop on Platial Analysis
Alexis COMBER,
Quantitative Platial Analysis: Methods for Handling and Representing Platial Heterogeneity and Linking Varying Concepts of Place
Clare DAVIES Place and Placing Locations: A Cognitive Perspective
Lorenz HURNI
Pinpointing Dream Settings onto Place Cookies
The Near-Decomposability Paradigm Re-Interpreted for Place-Based GIS
Turin’s Foodscapes: Exploring Places of Food Consumption Through the Prism of Social Practice Theory
Henrikki TENKANEN,
Digital Imaginations of National Parks in Different Social Media: A Data Exploration
From Space to Place and Back Again: Towards an Interface Between Space and Place
The Value of Detours
Mathias GRÖBE,
A Contribution to the Visualization of the Diversity of Places
Data Mining of Network Events With Space-Time Cube Application


The following programme is still provisional and might be subject to changes:

Thursday Friday
08:30 Registration opens ———
09:00 Welcome note and

Places as Location Categories
Clare Davies, University of Winchester, UK

Intro to VGIscience and

Quantitative Platial Analysis
Alexis Comber, University of Leeds, UK

10:15 Session I:
Conceptual anatomy of place

Chair: Franz-Benjamin Mocnik
Talk 1:
Pinpointing dream settings onto place cookies
Cristina M. Iosifescu Enescu (ETH Zürich),
Lorenz Hurni (ETH Zürich)

Talk 2:
The near-decomposability paradigm re-interpreted for place-based GIS
Thomas Blaschke (University of Salzburg),
Sepideh Tavakkoli Piralilou (University of Salzburg)

Session III:
Bridging space and place

Chair: Alexander Zipf
Talk 1:
From space to place and back again: Towards an interface between space and place
Emmanuel Papadakis (University of Salzburg),
George Baryannis (University of Huddersfield),
Thomas Blaschke (University of Salzburg)

Talk 2:
The value of detours
Sanam Noreen Vardag (Heidelberg University),
Sven Lautenbach (Heidelberg University)

11:15 Coffee break Coffee break
11:45 Discussion session I Discussion session III
12:30 Lunch Lunch
13:30 Session II:
Disclosing places from human discourse

Chair: René Westerholt
Talk 1:
Turin’s foodscapes: Exploring places of food consumption through the prism of social practice theory
Alessia Calafiore (University of Torino),
Guido Boella (University of Torino),
Elena Grassi (University of Torino),
Claudio Schifanella (University of Torino)

Talk 2:
Digital Imaginations of National Parks in Different Social Media: Data Exploration
Vuokko Heikinheimo (University of Helsinki),
Henrikki Tenkanen (University of Helsinki),
Tuomo Hiippala (University of Helsinki),
Tuuli Toivonen (University of Helsinki)

Session IV:
Exploratory and visual analytics of place

Chair: Dirk Burghardt
Talk 1:
A contribution to the visualization of the diversity of places
Mathias Gröbe (TU Dresden),
Dirk Burghardt (TU Dresden)

Talk 2:
Data mining of network events with space-time cube application
Viktor Putrenko (World Data Center for Geoinformatics and Sustainable Development),
Nataliia Pashynska (Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv),
Sergiy Nazarenko (World Data Center for Geoinformatics and Sustainable Development)

14:30 Coffee break Coffee break
15:00 Discussion session II Discussion session IV
16:00 Coffee break Closing of the workshop
16:30 Panel discussion:
“What’s been done about Place so far—and where are we heading?”
René Westerholt (anchorman), Clare Davies, Thomas Blaschke, Dirk Burghardt, Alexis Comber, Alexander Zipf
17:00 Poster blitz ———
19:00 Dinner
Restaurant Kulturbrauerei, Leyergasse 6, 69117 Heidelberg



The registration is handled via Eventbrite. Please register your participation here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/platial18-tickets-46023460409.

Please note: For administrative reasons, the tickets offered on Eventbrite are free. Please send an email to platial18@platialscience.net after your registration. The email should contain your name, affiliation and your applicable price category (see pricing below). You will then receive further information regarding your payment, as well as a receipt for your reimbursement.

Participation fees

We offer a three-tier pricing model:

Regular participants 130 EUR
PhD students 80 EUR
Bachelor/Master students 40 EUR

Prices include participation, coffee breaks, lunch and dinner.


The workshop takes place in the conference room of the Mathematikon, one of the newest venues of Heidelberg University:

Conference room, Mathematikon, Im Neuenheimer Feld 205, 69120 Heidelberg, Gemany.

Arrival to the venue

Air travel: Heidelberg is easy to reach from two international airports. Frankfurt airport is one of the major European aviation hubs and just a ~30 minutes train ride away. Stuttgart airport is another option, and also well connected to Heidelberg.

Arriving by train: Heidelberg main station is well connected by long-haul and regional trains. Via Mannheim, Heidelberg can be reached from large parts of Germany and the neighbouring countries in 4 hours.

From the main station: Tram lines 21 and 24 towards Handschuhsheim Nord or Hans-Thoma-Platz. Leave the tram at the stop Bunsengymnasium.

From the old town: Tram line 21 (see above), or bus line 31 (towards Uniklinik Neuenheimer Feld, leave the bus at the stop Bunsengymnasium).