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Partners: German Studies & Anthropology

Theme: Spatial Analysis in Humanities and Social Science

Date: 2/25/2015

Time: 3:00-5:00

Location: Main Library, 3 West, REAL Classroom

Register to attend (space is limited) –

Digital technology has brought about a renewed interest in geographic space in humanities and social science research. Projects using spatial analysis or cultural mapping take many different forms: aggregated data layered on geographic information systems (GIS), archaeological or archival objects tied to their places of origin, a visualization tool to illustrate differences in space and place, and plotting sites of encounter and technologies of modernity geographically and temporally. This LOCUS aims to examine the similarities and potential breadth of this growing methodology across the humanities and social sciences.



First Story Toronto Mobile App 

Heather Howard, Anthropology

First Story is a smart phone app created by First Story Toronto (formerly the Toronto Native Community History Project) of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto in partnership with COMAP, a non-profit organization assisting community groups with digital mapping. Launched in 2012, and in ongoing development through an array of partnerships, collaborations, and community-based projects, the app maps Toronto’s Indigenous histories on the modern city through text, photographs, audio, video, and art. The presentation will discuss successes and challenges of First Story in re/educating the public and reclaiming Indigenous relationships to urban space and place. Key issues to be examined are whether digital mapping can effectively represent Indigenous knowledge of Toronto’s Indigenous history, including oral tradition and Indigenous conceptual categories, and how well digital mapping lends itself to Indigenous community collaboration and the representation of multiple and even conflicting historical stories or interpretations. The author, a founding member of First Story can detail several specific First Story projects and collaborations including First Story’s involvement in the Pan Am Path legacy project associated with the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games.

Mapping Germany: Teaching Literature and Culture with Digital Media 

Elizabeth Mittman and Krsna Santos, German Studies

(Video not available)

Mapping Germany (GRM 445, Spring 2015) attempts to address challenges posed by the upper-level foreign language and culture curriculum, engaging students by foregrounding spatial and visual modes of cultural communication and knowledge creation. In this course we use maps as both thematic and formal tools for thinking about the dramatic changes occasioned not only by large-scale political and social upheaval, but also and in particular by the rapidly expanding mobilities afforded by technological advances. Mapping literary and filmic texts, and reading maps as texts, can help us to understand the compression of time and space, and contested relationships between space and place. In our presentation we will describe the curricular and pedagogical goals of the course, indicate some of the many ways in which spatial thinking permeates course structure and daily activities, and explain a bit more concretely what the digital mapping assignments look like.

Digital Atlas of Egyptian Archaeology 

Ethan Watrall, Anthropology and Matrix

Built during the Fall 2014 ANP455: Archaeology of Ancient Egypt class, the Digital Atlas of Egypt Archaeology was an experimental project in which students collaboratively built an online atlas of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeological sites. The atlas was built using bootstrap, Leaflet, and Omnivore. GitHub was used as a collaborative development environment for students ( as well as the platform to host the atlas proper ( Students were challenged to hand build atlas entries on their chosen archaeological site in HTML/CSS (and some light JS if they were feeling particularly ambitious). This talk will briefly explore the motivations behind the project, its architecture and underlying tools, the collaborative process, and the project’s outcomes (both successful and not so successful).

A Work in Progress: Using GIS to map Rahel Levin Varnhagen’s correspondence networks 

Kathryn McEwen, German Studies

This project uses GIS to map Rahel Levin Varnhagen’s correspondence networks, beginning with her residences in Berlin during her lifetime (1771-1833). By reconstructing geographical space — as opposed to tracing the intellectual space created in the correspondences — this initial map already opens a number of questions about how we “map” a life that was lived mostly at home.

Zulus on Display: Mapping Narratives of Ethnicity Using StoryMapJS 

Liz Timbs, History

From the mid-19th century to the early twentieth century, Zulus (or pseudo-Zulus) were displayed as entertainment in venues across Europe and North America. Utilizing StoryMapJS, I have begun to map those performances, integrating narratives and primary source photographs and documents, to illustrate how these displays were indicative of broader societal attitudes and proclivities. For LOCUS, I intend to discuss the process of building this project, as well as the wide-ranging applications of this technology for my own research and pedagogical goals.

Kenya-Tweet: (Almost) Real-Time Geospatial Tweet Mapping

Brian Geyer, Anthropology

Kenya-Tweet utilizes multiple open-source tools – including the Hawksey Twitter Archiving Google Sheet, Leaflet’s Omnivore and Markercluster tools, and Mapbox map tiles – to grab tweets geolocated to Kenya from Twitter’s API, map their location, and display the text and the author’s handle for each. Though this specific project seeks to map tweets in near real-time, these same tools can be used to collect tweets with specific attributes and map them. This would allow for geospatial analysis of any number of variables made available through Twitter’s metadata, as well as the text of tweets themselves.

MSU Vietnam Group Archive 

Dean Rehberger, Matrix and History

Partners on a project at Michigan State University funded by a grant from the Preservation and Access program of the National Endowment for the Humanities have been working to develop multiple entry points into the MSU Vietnam Group Archive. This digital archive contains nearly 90,000 pages of scanned documents, maps, and images from 1955-1969. Drawn from three collections held by the University Archives and Historical Collections at MSU, the scanned materials focus on a time when MSU worked with the American government in South Vietnam for the purpose of producing a stable, non-Communist country in the Cold War era. The proposed presentation will focus on the development of one such entry point – an interactive map-based interface to the MSU Vietnam Group Archive. It will touch on the process of designing a meaningful user experience; decisions about metadata, historical maps and place names, and the digital tools used to visual the archival records. It will also reference technological and design challenges encountered during the implementation stage of development as well as insights gained from user testing.