GIS Exploration

Island of MuranoFor our class today we were to reading the following:

In my student teaching semester, I was introduced to Google Maps by applying it to a week’s worth of lesson plans concerning the development of the Gupta Empire in India. The Google Earth application was a wonderful addition as a teaching tool as it gave my 7th graders a varied multi-dimensional learning exercise. I was struck by Leah Fleckenstein’s comment, in her article How Maps Lie, “The best way to remove bias – is to compare many maps featuring the same data” because I feel this applies to lessons in the classroom. It certainly made me think about how straightforward GIS is and how it provides another depth to research and to learning.  Although her article reflected upon how the Nazi’s used maps as propaganda, Maps can also provide truth, especially when coupled with archives and other existing data overlaid on top of one another. Jordi Marti-Henneberg’s article points out that the purpose of using HGIS (historical GIS) is to build a database that would incorporate data from “archives, printed materials, and previous empirical studies into temporal and territorial comparison of events and trends.” The desire to input historical data into a virtual data collection system has a future potential of allowing HGIS users the ability to create different answers to age-old questions concerning patterns.  Henneberg noted that HGIS uses will provide revisionist studies the necessary tools to challenge existing orthodoxies and grapple with questions that haven’t been answered and give avenues to approach a whole plethora of new ones. This thinking certainly applies to the project I want to tackle with the raw material of the wartime letters I have. Were soldiers’ writing of the same things world wide? or did it vary continent by continent, country versus country or even state by state, city by city, or in different neighborhoods? Using the concept of HGIS could provide a part of the answer. I definitely agree with Henneberg when she states that GIS applications will bring together subjects, such as population geography and transportation history, when before, they were studied separately. GIS is a future in which many disciplines will find each other knocking at the other’s door in order to create a collaboration with each other to find unique answers that otherwise would not be located without what GIS can provide. The next step we will be delving into will be our own experience with the process of map overlay and GIS. Last week I attempted to pull information about Lake Chatuge here in Hiawassee. While I was able to download a workable map from the USGS, finding an applicable map to use with transportation data or agricultural data has proved daunting. The State of Georgia’s mapping products seems to be somewhat archaic. I may have to switch locations in order to find something better. I’m still working on this.

 

Spatial History and Technology

AtlantisReading for our class today includes the following articles:

I was drawn to Tim Hitchcock’s article about historians and geographers lack of communication. “ All of which is simply to say, that we are confronted with two fields that should be in constant dialogue, but which simply have not passed much more than the odd civil word in the last few decades.  In the process, they have developed different technologies of knowing and different systems of training and analysis. 

This part is definitely true as many researchers fail to understand that history has many layers. But I am drawn to referencing Karl Schlogel’s Book “Moscow 1937.” Within his introduction, he mentions that in order to make sense of the madness which took place during the year 1937 in Moscow, one needed to fly from a bird’s eye view to understand the topography along with the events which transpired. He included a map of Moscow with notes about each dot. There is some pull for historians to use geography within research, but not to the extent that it could be utilized.

I was fascinated by the word Todd Presner uses in his article – “multidimensional.” I believe this word sums up what Spatial history and technology could do for the humanities field. There is definitely a place for historians to review history by its interaction and intersection. If we are to move forward, I believe that linear narrative will become a thing of the past. I certainly see us moving toward the ‘Hypercities’ project, which will allow audiences and scholars to draw from different areas of research and overlap these to gain a better understanding of movement and change over time. This is what spatial history is all about – movement and change over time.

I emailed Dr. Mack this morning with these questions: I really enjoyed the readings this week. It made me really think about what I could do with my letters. (I got two new collections in the mail this week). I really want to take the text of the letters from both WWI and WWII and do a word cloud to see what soldiers were writing about. Was it duty and honor or something else? The spatial reading got me to thinking that comparison analysis could be done by country but I’m unsure of where to go after that since most spatial research is about movement or change over time. Maybe change of writing over time? The first war compared to the second? But then I would need letters from the same area but two different periods. I like the idea of spatial history but I don’t know how I could incorporate it with my word cloud idea. What do you think?

The ideas for my own personal project came along with reading Tim Hitchcock’s article and his reference to an ‘infinite archive.’ Turning text into data would allow me to explore the question of what soldiers really were writing in their letters, and the use of word clouds and text mining would be a way to discover that. But text mining would only be a part of the equation. Were soldiers globally speaking of the same thing? Did it vary by war, by country, by state, by county, by city? The answer to these question would call for a spatial analysis too of the layered text in the written letters over time. I wonder if my project idea is too burdensome to tackle? And would I run into some of the problems that Todd Presner expressed in his article? – Institutional support. Would it be a legitimate undertaking? How would I gather enough data?

Digital databases and digital research tools

1280-960-70312For our reading today, we reviewed several articles that explored the dynamics of creating digital databases and what tools are currently available for researchers.

It appears through these readings that there is some question as to how the historian must collect, store and label data. Many of the authors seem to posit that what is currently utilized is outdated and inadequate. Technology is ever changing, but historians are not keeping up with the changes, and do not use the correct forms of data storage. As historians of the future, I feel we are gifted with new types of data collection, and should be well aware of how to gather this information correctly and process it into storage. The hardest part in my opinion would be how to adequately categorize and organize this information. Kenneth Price addressed this problem in his article.

What is digital history?

magnifying glassFor today’s class we were to read the introduction and chapter one of Cohen and Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/ along with several other readings which include:

It seems to me that in digitalizing history, whether it is primary sources scanned to an interactive site or the quantitative measures used back in the 1970s and 1980s, there will always be controversy regarding how history is preserved and analyzed. The theme that prevails in most of these readings about what digital history is, appears to reflect an existing argument about how the advancements in our technology should be utilized regarding historical research. Some in academia perceive that computers cannot do the analysis as well as the human mind, and we must keep that in prospective. Programs should help, but the end result should be our own determination and connections. I think this is why much of technology has shifted in a new direction of maintaining and preserving primary documents.

In my own journey to begin the task of scanning the multitude of letters and other images and texts in my collection, I found solace in Cohen and Rosenzweig’s words that many present day sites (which host millions of users and viewers) began simply by a historian’s personal desire to share their own sources with the outside world. To me this is what digital history should be: an attempt to keep a record of documents which normally would not last a hundred years, so that our children’s children may assess the culture and society of the past.