4. Spatial Humanities: Exploring Opportunities in the Humanities

Instructors: Quin Shirk-Luckett, Teresa Lewitsky (University of Guelph Library)

Classroom: Thornbrough 1004

How can spatial exploration and mapping help you develop new understandings and unique perspectives of fictional and historical material?
Arguably all topics of research in the Humanities have some relationship with space.  Everything happens somewhere.  Dependent upon the discipline and context of study, the definition of space can be influenced by class, capital, gender and race amongst other constructs and further through the perspective of the individual versus the collective.  The concept of space in this context can range from simple, to complex and relativistic.
With the general popularity of tools such as Google Maps, GPSs in our cars and on our phones, spatial understanding has begun to permeate every day communication and navigation, engendering a new level of spatial awareness.  Suddenly academics are presented with the opportunity to turn their bits of paper into bytes of data and create digitized versions of previously analog artefacts of history, culture, and literature.  This spatial analysis yields new ways to engage with the information, revealing new patterns, trends and understanding that have previously been hidden.
Not surprisingly there has been a steady uptake amongst academics within the Humanities in the usage of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in their research.  The results of which have been visually powerful and in many cases offer new perspectives on long studied topics.
This hands-on workshop is for participants who are interested in visualizing their research in a spatial way.  At the end of this course participants will be able to:

  1.  Examine primary source materials (analogue texts and images) for spatial information for the purpose of creating spatial datase
  2.  Understand best practices in digitizing (scanning, photographing, transcribing to tabular formats) analogue materials.
  3.   Find and evaluate spatial data
  4.  Create spatial datasets from digitized materials using GIS software.  Processes will include:
    1.  Creating tabular data to be “mapped”.
    2.  Georeferencing images: assigning geographic coordinates to enable the image to sit in the correct place in the world in the software.
    3. Vectorizing images: tracing significant features from the georeferenced images to create points, lines, and polygon features to use in analysis.
  5. Conduct basic analysis on data created.
  6. Learn how to create story maps to make an online exhibit to display and share your artefacts, research, and maps.
  7. Test-drive some freely available web-based tools.