Practicing GIS as Mixed Method: Affordances and Limitations in an Urban Gardening Study

Bryan Preston, Matthew W. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Geographic information systems (GIS) represent more than a tool for spatial data handling. Qualitative and mixed-methods approaches with GIS value the suite of spatial methods and technologies, while typically showing a marked sensitivity toward issues of subjectivity, knowledge production, exclusion, reflexivity, and power relations. Although recent research in the use of qualitative GIS demonstrates the ways in which spatial representations and analyses can be used as part of critical geographic inquiry, there remain significant opportunities to demonstrate and synthesize the particular affordances of these approaches. Alongside broader developments in public scholarship and the digital humanities, mixed-methods research with GIS is coming of age, as technological innovations are easing access to data and access to visualization and analytical tools for some. The implications of these developments at the level of knowledge construction within community-based, critical research have been underexplored, however. What are the specific affordances of mixed-methods research with GIS? How are mixed-methods knowledges made and worked through community engagement? Here, we trace how qualitative GIS methods uniquely enable multiple narratives to change the ways in which GIS is practiced. To illustrate this process, we present findings from the use of qualitative GIS to study urban gardening in a postindustrial, Midwestern city.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-529
Number of pages20
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014


  • critical GIS
  • qualitative GIS
  • urban gardening
  • urban geography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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