Geospatial Seminar Series - Prof. Bin Jiang to talk at SpaceTimeLab

3 February 2014


On Tuesday 4th February 2014 at 11.00am, Professor Bin Jiang from the University of Gävle (Sweden) will give a special presentation entitled Head/Tail Breaks for Visualizing the Fractal or Scaling Structure of Geographic Features, in the Thompson Room (101), Chadwick Building, UCL. Details of the talk are below. This is an excellent opportunity to hear from a truly inspiring speaker, so don't miss out.


Things surrounding us are unevenly distributed, implying that instead of more or less similar things, there are far more small things large ones, e.g., far more small cities than large ones in a country (Zipf 1949), far more small city artifacts than large ones in a city (Salingaros and West 1999, Jiang and Liu 2012). This phenomenon is often referred to as fractal or scaling in the literature (Mandelbrot 1982, Bonner 2006). To better visualize the fractal or scaling structure, we developed a new classification scheme, namely head/tail breaks, which recursively divides things (or large things) into two imbalanced parts: a minority of large things in the head and a majority of small things in the tail (Jiang 2013). Unlike conventional classification methods like natural breaks (Jenks 1967), this new classification scheme helps efficiently and effectively visualize the underlying fractal or scaling structure in a simple and unique way. More importantly, head/tail breaks adds deep implications to statistical mapping (Jiang 2013), map generalization (Jiang, Liu and Jia 2013), cognitive mapping (Lynch 1960, Jiang 2013), and perception of beauty (Alexander 2002, Jiang and Sui 2014). The head/tail breaks derived hierarchy (or the number of the classes), namely ht-index (Jiang and Yin 2014), can be used, as an alternative to fractal dimension (Mandelbrot 1982), for quantifying complexity of geographic features, or fractals in general. 

Speaker Biography

Dr. Bin Jiang is Professor in GeoInformatics and Computational Geography at University of Gävle, Sweden. He is also affiliated to Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) at Stockholm via KTH Research School. He worked in the past with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis. He is the founder and chair of the International Cartographic Association Commission on Geospatial Analysis and Modeling. He has been coordinating the NordForsk-funded Nordic Network in Geographic Information Science. His research interest is geospatial analysis and modeling, in particular topological analysis of urban street networks in the context of geographic information systems. He is Associate Editor of international journal Computer, Environment and Urban Systems.


  • Alexander C. (2002), The Nature of Order: An essay on the art of building and the nature of the universe, Book 1 - The Phenomenon of Life, Center for Environmental Structure: Berkeley, CA.
  • Bonner J. T. (2006), Why Size matters: From bacteria to blue whales, Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey.
  • Jenks G. F. (1967), The data model concept in statistical mapping, International Yearbook of Cartography, 7, 186–190.
  • Jiang B. (2013), Head/tail breaks: A new classification scheme for data with a heavy-tailed distribution, The Professional Geographer, 65 (3), 482 – 494.
  • Jiang B. (2013), The image of the city out of the underlying scaling of city artifacts or locations, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 103(6), 1552-1566.
  • Jiang B. and Liu X. (2012), Scaling of geographic space from the perspective of city and field blocks and using volunteered geographic information, International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 26(2), 215-229.
  • Jiang B. and Sui D. (2014), A new kind of beauty out of the underlying scaling of geographic space, The Professional Geographer, xx, xx-xx, DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2013.852037.
  • Jiang B. and Yin J. (2014), Ht-index for quantifying the fractal or scaling structure of geographic features, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, xx, xx-xx, DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2013.834239.
  • Jiang B., Liu X. and Jia T. (2013), Scaling of geographic space as a universal rule for map generalization, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 103(4), 844 – 855.
  • Lynch K. (1960), The Image of the City, The MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Mandelbrot B. (1982), The Fractal Geometry of Nature, W. H. Freeman and Co.: New York.
  • Salingaros N. A. and West B. J. (1999), A universal rule for the distribution of sizes, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 26(6), 909-923.
  • Zipf G. K. (1949), Human Behaviour and the Principles of Least Effort, Addison Wesley: Cambridge, MA.

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