Place niche and its regional variability: Measuring spatial context patterns for points of interest with representation learning

Xi Liu, Clio Andris, Sohrab Rahimi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the built environment, places such as retail outlets and public sites are embedded in the spatial context formed by neighboring places. We define the sets of these symbiotic places in the proximity of a focal place as the place's “place niche” which conceptually represents the features of the local environment. While current literature has focused on pairwise spatial colocation patterns, we represent the niche as an integrated feature for each type of place, and quantify the niches’ variation across cities. Here, with point of interest (POI) data as an approximation of places in cities, we propose representation learning models to explore place niche patterns. The models generate two main outputs: first, distributed representations for place niche by POI category (e.g. Restaurant, Museum, Park) in a latent vector space, where close vectors represent similar niches; and second, conditional probabilities of POI appearance of each place type in the proximity of a focal POI. With a case study using Yelp data in four U.S. cities, we reveal spatial context patterns and find that some POI categories have more unique surroundings than others. We also demonstrate that niche patterns are strong indicators of the function of POI categories in Phoenix and Las Vegas, but not in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Moreover, we find that niche patterns of more commercialized categories tend to have less regional variation than others, and the city-level niche-pattern changes for POI categories are generally similar only between certain city pairs. By exploring patterns for place niche, we not only produce geographical knowledge for business location choice and urban policymaking, but also demonstrate the potential and limitations of using spatial context patterns for GIScience tasks such as information retrieval and place recommendation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-160
Number of pages15
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
Volume75
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Urban Studies

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