Christaller and “big data”: recalibrating central place theory via the geoweb

2018-10-16T15:26:44Z (GMT) by Michiel Van Meeteren Ate Poorthuis
This article utilizes central place theory (CPT) to navigate the “deluge” brought about by big data. While originating in the 1930s, CPT is a theoretical monument of 1960s spatial science. CPT aims to understand settlement geographies based on consumption behavior and is often presented as a singular, outdated, and rationalist theory. After critically reviewing the history of CPT, we assess the microfoundations of Christaller’s CPT–the threshold and range of goods–for various central functions in Louisville, Kentucky. The microfoundations are estimated through data from social media platforms Foursquare and Twitter. These sources alleviate many of the operationalization issues that traditionally hamper empirical use of CPT. The empirical application of CPT reveals that: (i) central functions have typical ranges and thresholds relating central places to population spread; (ii) central functions cluster based on an approximate hierarchical structure. The findings indicate the ongoing importance of CPT in shaping urban-economic geographies.