Purpose: The paper aims to propose a knowledge visualization approach and algorithm to support public decision makers to define the inner areas, which represents a strategic topic in the European debate about territorial inequality and development. Design/methodology/approach: The study has been developed by following the design science research, which includes six steps: problem identification and motivation; identification of the objectives for a solution; design and development; demonstration; evaluation; and communication. As for the design and development step, the proposed approach and algorithm ground on association mining to discover hidden relationships existing among municipalities. They have been applied to analyse the 97 municipalities of the Lecce province, and each municipality has been described through 30 multi-domain indicators organized into seven categories, whose data have been collected from institutional datasets, local sources or web-scraping process. Findings: A set of complementary analyses has been generated through the construction of dynamic and interactive knowledge maps that show “similar” municipalities according to the indicators selected. Originality/value: The approach and algorithm proposed allow discovering similarities existing among distinct municipalities, based on the analysis of a set of multi-domain indicators. The approach may complement or completely substitute the existing ones used to define inner areas, thus overcoming both the methodological limits of the “top-down” line imposed by the central legislator, and the “bottom-up” paradox consisting in the illusion that single (and often small) towns have the economic and cognitive resources necessary to implement effective territorial mapping and development strategies. In such a way, policy makers can be aware on similarities existing among distinct towns and can thus share cognitive and financial resources to define a common plan and a set of practices for territorial development.
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