Week 12 – Telling Stories: Elements of a Story, Public vs. Academic Audiences, Telling Digital Stories

This week, students will be providing their thoughts on the following set of required readings and projects:

  • Liz Covart on “Writing History for the Public”
  • Ian Mortimer, “Twelve hints for writing history for the general public,” PDF on canvas
  • Excerpts from Bryan Alexander, The New Digital Storytelling Creating Narratives with New Media (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2011). On Canvas.
  • Gold, Debates in the DH, Part IV “Can Information be Unfettered?”
  • Open thread on postcolonial Digital Humanities. Read the summary of issues relating to race/class/gender. Choose one question and read a “yes” and a “no” response.

Week 11 – Metatdata, Data Mining, Textual Analysis, Crowdsourcing

This week, we’re skimming over a few digital methods beyond GIS. Jillian brings as the following thoughts:

Assigned Readings


“Understanding Metadata” says that metadata is data about data; it “makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource” (1). Metadata functions as a way for resource discovery, organizing electronic resources, interoperability, digital recognition, and archiving and preservation. In essence, metadata serves as a way to keep information searchable, accessible, and organized. Metadata also serves as a way to keep information relevant. There is a big concern that digital resources will not survive very long into the future because of how quickly digital technology advances. Metadata can serve as a way to prevent the loss of information. NISO outlines eleven different metadata schemes that have different qualifications based upon the information being catalogued; they include, but are not limited to: Dublin Core, Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), and MPEG Multimedia Metadata.

The two articles from Tooling Up for Digital Humanities talks about thinking like a database as a way to gather, store, and analyze information. Thinking like a database avoids hierarchical thinking and can help draw previously unseen connections because information is organized by connections and is not separated by virtual walls and boundaries. Proper digital markup makes it easier to create those unseen connections because it can filter through large quantities of data to pick out the few pieces that meet the qualifications.

Grossman says we have entered the age of Big Data. The interconnectivity of the internet and data sharing creates vast amounts of information available to researchers. Grossman suggests this access to such large amounts of information is a boon to historians. He does not suggest that historians “become statisticians,” but he does suggest a more interdisciplinary approach wherein historians work with statisticians to combine the qualitative and quantitative to craft a more comprehensive narrative. Grossman also suggests forward-thinking. Historians must think about the implications of the digital environment as it relates to history.

Rockwell’s “What is Text Analysis, Really?” looks at concordances and text analysis. He claims that concordances in computer-assisted text analysis especially have the potential to create a completely new text. Especially without context surround each occurrence, Rockwell claims the meaning of the text becomes hidden or distorted because words are not always used with consistent meanings. The same words can be used in two different places and mean two different things. Rockwell introduces TAPoR as a text-analysis software that allows for more context to be built into concordances which will help prevent such distortion of information.

In “What do Girls Dig?,” Nowviskie posed a question to the Twitterverse about women presenters at the Digging into Data conference. Since only two of the more than thirty presenters were women, Nowviskie asked why there were only two women and also what it is that women dig? After receiving several answers, Nowviskie rethought her query. Perhaps the problem was not with the conference, but with the fact that there weren’t as many women involved in data mining as men. Nowviskie attributed this gender disparity to three reasons: enthusiasm, trepidation, and framing and rhetoric.

Discussion Questions

  • Grossman advocates interdisciplinary cooperation. What other discipline could you partner with to create your project? What would that discipline add to your project?
  • Look at the different metadata systems outlined in “Understanding Metadata.” Are these systems too restrictive? If so, what needs to be added to make the system more complete?
  • Do you agree with the three reasons Nowviskie outlines for why there is a gender disparity in data mining? If not, what is she missing?

Additional Resources



Week 10 – Design Principles

We are moving on to topics beyond GIS this week. Our focus is now turned to design, and Yani brings us the following summary and questions from the work of Edward Tufte:

Assigned Readings

  • Edward R. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information


Printed tables of data poorly impress themselves on a reader, “like a figure imprinted on sand” (32), time easily erases their impact, whereas graphics powerfully represent data in an easily-consumable way. Edward Tufte discusses the surprisingly brief history of visual displays of data, the best practices for creating graphics ethically and effectively, and theories for improving data graphics in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Tufte underscores his primary claims with purposefully curated examples of maps, graphs, and figures.

Part I begins with an outline of the characteristics of “excellent graphics.” Excellent graphics make data easily accessible without compromising meaning, but many graphics end up distorting information. Tufte warns that the authority of visuals encourages the consumer to overlook fallacies. The author then examines the history of visualization of data. The first data maps originated in the late 17th century, showing information like monsoon winds, patterns of disease, or trade. Time-series charts, graphics that plot time along one axis, appeared in scientific writings by the late 18th century. Complexity of time-series charts increased over time in several ways, as through the addition of a spatial dimension like in Minard’s graphic (40). By the 19th century, graphical designs no longer depended on an analogy to the physical world (time or space); any variable could be measured against any other variable.

The following section considers graphical integrity. Tufte posits that people associate visualizations with lies more often than they might text, despite that individuals lacking integrity can twist text into shapes just as deceitfully. Creators of graphics should employ as much principle in their practice as ethical creators of text. The author claims that a creators of reliable graphic should (1) make physical representations of numbers on the graphic directly proportional to the numbers themselves, (2) use clear, detailed labels to discourage distortion and ambiguity , (3) understand that inconsistency of scale or variations in design often create distortion, which implies data variation that might not exist, (4) display data related to money over time in real prices, or risk demonstrating inaccurate patterns, (5) avoid using graphics of area in two or three dimensions to represent one-dimensional data, which exaggerates changes, and (5) create a fuller truth by showing context because graphics often lie by omission. People can use the following formula to calculate the truthfulness of a visual: lie factor= size of effect shown in graphic/size of effect in data.

Several perspectives and practices have eroded graphical integrity, but diligence can rebuild it. Many artists produce distorted graphics because they lack understanding or respect for quantitative information; their bosses hired them to beautify data, and statistics bore consumers. An assumption that graphics exist for people who find text too difficult led to over-simplified, over-decorated visuals that rarely concern more than one variable. The theory of data graphics states: “Above all else show the data” (92). Maximizing data-ink creates clearer graphics. Individuals can use this formula to determine the proportion of data-associated ink use: Data-Ink Ratio= data-ink/total ink used to print the graphic (93). Identifying the data-ink, effective artists prune non-data-ink and redundant data-ink and face editing without apprehension. Chartjunk refers to any decoration that distracts the viewer from information in a graphic. Computer programs like excel make adding chartjunk to a figure easier, increasing its occurrence. Muted or removed grids reduce clutter in graphs. Artists should avoid “duck” graphics, in which graphical style supplants quantitative reasoning in importance.

Drafters of figures can harness the principles Tufte outlines as best practices to reinterpret traditional forms of visualization and innovate new ones. For example, he prunes redundant data-ink in the box-and-whiskers plot until it consists of a dot with two lines, and yet it still communicates the same information. Tufte explains several other examples of emphasizing data while removing unnecessary ink, such as using a white grid or transforming axes into a range-frame. Multifunctioning graphical elements fulfill more than one graphical purpose. For example, data measures like bars of bar charts, points of scatter plots, or blots on blot maps can represent more than one measure using position and color or shape. Data-based grids create a design element while also representing data at distinct measurement points. Double-functioning labels include elements like range-frames. Shades of gray convey clearer meaning to hierarchical data than colors and allow a viewer to understand data in both a broad and a specific sense. The human eye can distinguish between data as small as .1 mm and statistical visualizations can take advantage of this trait. High-density data displays encourage the viewer to engage with the data presented. Maps consistently achieve excellent data density. Graphics that strive for maximum data density present a more complete picture. Additionally, the intent of graphics may persist even if they are shrunken down, as in sparklines or small multiples, which often show the same graph shown repeatedly over time.

The concluding chapter speaks to aesthetics. Tufte correlates graphical elegance with “simplicity of design and complexity of data” (177). He suggests that an aesthetically pleasing design for quantitative information must have an intentional format, often integrates words, numbers, and drawings together, reflect relevant scale and proportion, displays complexity accessibly, often tells a story, and avoids chartjunk. In closing, Tufte reminds the reader that displays of data should draw clarity from of complexity, but also that the theories he outlines are guidelines, for design is always choice.


  • Edward Tufte presents many types of visualizations in this book that are not maps. Do you think any of these methods might be useful for presenting information about your study on your fact sheet?
  • How useful do you find Tufte’s mathematical equations for approximating graphical “excellency?” Consider the “lie factor,” “data-ink,” and “data density of a display” equations.
  • Please link to an image of a “duck” visualization (as described by Tufte, please). How could the artist have presented their data in a more intentional or appropriate format to add clarity?

Additional Sources

  • Guchev, Vladimir, Massimo Mecella, and Giuseppe Santucci. “Design Guidelines for Correlated Quantitative Data Visualizations.” Proceedings of the International Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces, 2012, 761-64.
  • Enikeev, Ruslan. “The Internet Map.” The Internet Map. Accessed October 19, 2017. http://internet-map.net/. Visualization of the “Semantic Web”
  • Halloran, Neil. “The Fallen of World War II- Data-Driven Documentary About War & Peace.” May 25, 2015. Film. http://www.fallen.io/ww2/.
  • Keating, Joshua, and Chris Kirk. “Confused About Syria? A Guide to the War’s Friends, Enemies, and Frenemies.” Slate Magazine. October 06, 2015. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/10/06/syrian_conflict_relationships_explained.html. An example of using cells of grid as meaningful points, like the fear/rage dog visualization
  • Lysy, Christopher, Azzam, Tarek, and Evergreen, Stephanie. “Developments in Quantitative Data Display and Their Implications for Evaluation.” New Directions for Evaluation 2013, no. 139 (2013): 33-51.
  • Popova, Maria, and Gareth Cook. The Best American Infographics 2015. Boston: Mariner Books, 2015.
  • Trouvé, Antoine, and Kazuaki Murakami. “Interactive Visualization of Quantitative Data with G2D3.” Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium on Visual Information Communication and Interaction, 2015, 154-55.


Week 9 – ArcGIS cont.

This week, Kylee brings us a summary and her thoughts about the readings:

Assigned Readings

  • Qualitative GIS, chapters 8-10


As we conclude Qualitative GIS, we are faced with discussions of the power of affective geovisualization, the genealogy of qualitative GIS, and the implications and future of qualitative GIS.

In “Into the Image and Beyond: Affective Visual Geographies and GIScience,”Aitken and Craine discuss the implications of spectacular images and how human consumption of those images impacts emotion and action. They argue that geovisualization techniques create new ways for people to think spatially, but the use technologies cannot be separated from human experience and emotion. They recommend the consideration and use of emotional geographies that ask different and powerful questions, and the application of affective geovisualization to GIS as a means to analyze “representations that are presented as natural, universal, or true… so that alternative narratives, based on geography become visible” (153).

In “Toward a Genealogy of Qualitative GIS” by Matthew W. Wilson, the relationships between qualitative GIS and other methods of GIS and societal research are outlined. Wilson argues that although qualitative GIS inherits many properties from other forms of research and critique, qualitative GIS offers the strongest position for analyzing spatial research. The different positionality of researchers in qualitative GIS lend the method to being critical of and attentive to various types of data and create stronger representations for analysis.

Finally, the conclusion of the book by Cope and Elwood summarize the position of qualitative GIS as a powerful mixed methods approach. They admit the potential weakness of qualitative GIS, crippling ambiguities that are possible in accepting multiple experiences as data (173), but argue that method-specific steps can be taken to ensure productivity. They outline four implications of qualitative GIS, and leave readers with a glimpse of what the future of the approach may hold. Interestingly, they leave us with an argument that the future of qualitative GIS “lies [partially] in the hands of the web-savvy public” (177).


  1. Aitken and Craine note that ultimately, GIS is a “technology of information transfer and knowledge production, and thus functions as an act of communication” (141). What do your projects for the city of Fort Collins communicate to the public? How is this information effectively communicated using GIS?
  2. Wilson argues that qualitative GIS offers the best position to critically engage with geospatial data and GIS in general. Do you agree with this argument? How does qualitative GIS stand as the strongest method of doing GIS and society research? Where might it fall short?
  3. Consider the four implications that Cope and Elwood outline in the conclusion. Do you agree with this list? Which implication do you find the most striking?

Additional Resources


Week 8 – ArcGIS continued

This week, as we continue to learn about and discuss ArcGIS for the humanities, Joe brings us the following thoughts:

Assigned Readings

  • Chapters 6-7 Qualitative GIS
  • Chapters 8-10 The Spatial Humanitites


We concluded our reading of The Spatial Humanities this week with a series of chapters that explore more of the methodological challenges facing GIS in the humanities. In The Geospatial Semantic Web, Pareto GIS, and the Humanities,” Trevor Harris, L. Jesse Rouse, and Susan Bergeron examine the role of the spatial turn, specifically on how scholars can reach a better understanding of space’s influence on human actions and experiences. GIS-based geography is currently most associated with this realm of study, yet it struggles with the more qualitative aspects of the humanities, such as preferences for multiple interpretations and personal story-telling. The authors instead promote the use of the Geospatial Semantic Web, a method to “integrate, synthesize, and display humanities and spatial data through one simple and ubiquitous Web interface” (129). The relative inaccessibility and complexity of GIS software often precludes wider engagement in a public discourse, hence the rise of streamlined “neogeographies,” which allow inexperienced users to easily grapple with geospatial data. With more user participation comes more user-produced qualitative data. Identifying and mapping the spatial locations of this non-quantitative information is a primary goal of the Geospatial Semantic Web. In “GIS, e-Science, and the Humanities Grid,” Paul S. Ell discusses the possibilities of using e-science and grid technologies in humanities studies. Grids are frequently used in science to allow for easier collaboration and computation, but Ell thinks that data grids could be relevant for GIS. They permit for a much larger degree of resource sharing and can bring separate primary data sources together into one large entity. The idea of a massive informational infrastructure has been slow to catch on with humanists, but some potential for how e-science could operate in GIS is seen in the limited examples of TimeMap and the “Vision of Britain through Time” project. Finally, in “Challenges for the Spatial Humanities: Toward a Research Agenda,” Trevor Harris, John Corrigan, and David J. Bodenhamer conclude the book with six overarching “themes” of spatial humanities. First, they acknowledge the apparent tension that arises between the clear-cut positivism of GIS and the epistemological and ontological characteristics of the humanities. The second theme follows by touching on the epistemological and ontological implications of using GIS for humanities research. Third, GIS is a very powerful technology that can draw on the authority of maps to make false conclusions about the world. Scholars should use caution when using GIS and understand its operational assumptions. Fourth, GIS is not the only method of studying the spatial humanities. Fifth, time is intrinsically tied to space, and the authors urge humanities scholars against separating the two. Lastly, the notion of place is crucial to the humanities, perhaps even more so than space.

As we continued through Qualitative GIS, we learned how to approach data through grounded visualization and scale. Authors LaDona Knigge and Meghan Cope describe grounded visualization as a combination of grounded theory (analytic theories constructed from numerous empirically-verified sources) and methods of visually exploring data through GIS and other software. They also emphasize the importance and utility of visualizing data representations from vantage points of different scales. Looking at spatial data with a sense of scale in mind opens our eyes to the multiple realities of a space. Patterns that exist in one perspective might not apply on another. Furthermore, grounded visualization prompts us to critically examine emergent patterns in sets of quantitative data through the forms of new qualitative questions. Knowing the context of a particular dataset is crucial to explaining the multiple meanings of a space when it is viewed at different scales. The importance of qualitative data is elaborated upon by Jin-Kyu Jung in his chapter on computer-aided qualitative GIS. Jung defines qualitative data as “representations of the experiential knowledge of individuals or groups,” and their accompanying interpretations (117). Such data notably implies the multiple meanings places have for different people. The challenge for GIS is in effectively integrating experiential knowledge into its quantitative framework. Mixed methods like hyperlinked photographs come close, but the qualitative information is still stored outside of GIS. Jung proposes a series of software innovations to allow for greater integration, such as imagined grids and hybrid relational databases that accommodate for multiple interpretations of data.


  • Harris, Rouse and Bergeron briefly mention the use of mobile phones in the formation of user-generated spatial data (p. 131). Given their speculations and last week’s brief discussion on phones and augmented reality, do you think you could use the ever-expanding powers of mobile phone applications to add useful data to your project?
  • Integrating qualitative information into GIS is one of the major challenges of using the software. Rather than hyperlink photos onto his map of Buffalo, Jung attempted to merge his qualitative photographic information into the data structure of GIS itself by using imagined grid systems with a qualitative layer. How effective do you think he was at this, and do his methods help at all in understanding experiential meaning and context through GIS?
  • Are Bodenhamer, Corrigan, and Harris correct in their summation of the six themes of spatial humanities, or are there other possibilities they overlooked? Which theme seems the most important or useful to you (especially in your project)?

Additional Sources

  • Bodenhamer, David J., Corrigan, John, and Trevor M Harris, eds. Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2015.
  • Guns, Raf. “Tracing the origins of the semantic web.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 64(10), 2013. 2173-2181.
  • Leszczynski, Agnieszka, and Matthew W. Wilson. “Guest Editorial: Theorizing the Geoweb.” GeoJournal, vol. 78, no. 6, 2013, pp. 915–919. jstor.org/stable/24432633
  • Scharl, Arno and Karl Tochtermann. The Geospatial Web: How Geobrowsers, Social Software and the Web 2.0 Are Shaping the Network Society. London: Springer, 2007.
  • Tozman, Reuben. “How Mobile Computing and the Semantic Web Will Change Learning Forever.” Learning Solutions Magazine. August 1, 2011. https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/722/how-mobile-computing-and-the-semantic-web-will-change-learning-forever

Week 7 – ArcGIS

This week, we’re jumping head first into ArcGIS. Our post comes from Kaitlyn, who writes:

Assigned Readings

  • Chapters 4-5 in Qualitative GIS: A Mixed Methods Approach
  • Chapters 5-7 in The Spatial Humanities


Chapters 4 and 5 in Qualitative GIS concern community-based GIS projects and incorporating local knowledge. Sarah Elwood’s chapter “Multiple Representations, Significations and Epistemologies in Community-Based GIS” is about participatory research with two Chicago neighborhood organizations and their contributions to ideas about qualitative vs. quantitative research. The groups’ differing interpretations and data around one neighborhood blurred the line between the two types. Additionally, she focuses on “PGIS” or participatory GIS, which involves local communities in GIS work and remakes GIS into an everyday tool. In their chapter “Geographic Information Technologies, Local Knowledge, and Change,” Jon Corbett and Giacomo Rambaldi build on the idea of PGIS by showing how a community maps themselves and their history using GIS and cartography. This chapter is less about data than the others and more about the politics and agendas that go into creating a map. A community as a source is no more objective than any other.

John Corrigan in “Qualitative GIS and Emergent Semantics” argues that GIS must be more fluid to accommodate qualitative data as humanists use it. This requires a flexible definition for data terms – he uses churches as an example. Gary Lock, an archeologist, wrote “Representations of Space and Place in the Humanities.” He looks at the challenges GIS still faces in these representations. He defines the issue as a continuum with cartography at one end and the “lived-in world of phenomenology” at the other (90). May Yuan provides three techniques for creating maps out of text in “Mapping Text.” The first is spatialization, which requires textual sources with known locations, such as census data. The next is georeferencing through gazetteers, which are programs that geoparse text to create a map database. The last is geoinference, which uses more textual parsing to create the relational data georeferencing cannot.

Discussion Questions

  1. John Corrigan claims that humanities scholars “like to draw a suite of conclusions at the same time” (81). Can we combine this concept with Fischer’s guidelines for historical questions?
  2. Gary Lock claims that spatial technology is taking a humanist turn and we are best poised to interpret GIS models (105). Do you agree with his claim?
  3. Would any aspect of your project benefit from community involvement? Or would community ownership of terms and data limit your work?

Bibliography and Resources

  • Alexandria Digital Library Gazetteer. https://www.library.ucsb.edu/map-imagery-lab/alexandria-digital-library-gazetteer
  • Bonilla, Jose. “Neighborhood Resources in Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee.” ArcGIS. November 5, 2015. https://arcg.is/fuei4
  • Curry, Michael R. Digital Places: Living with Geographic Information Technologies. New York: Routledge. 1998.
  • Harris, Roy. The Semantics of Science. New York: Continuum, 2005.
  • Jortner, Adam. “The Empty Continent: Cartography, Pedagogy, and Native American History.” In Why You Can’t Teach American History without American Indians edited by Susan Sleeper-Smith, Juliana Barr, Jean M. O’Brien, Nancy Shoemaker, and Scott Manning Stevens. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2015.
  • Mossallam, Alia and Nermin El Sherif. “Mapping the Counter-Histories of Port Said: A Critical Reading into a Communal Mapping Project.” Jadaliyya. January 25, 2017. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/25940/mapping-the-counter-histories-of-port-said_a-criti
  • Naone, Erica. “Historical Maps in Second Life.” MIT Technology Review. February 29, 2008. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/409682/historical-maps-in-second-life/
  • Wood, Justin. “‘How Green Is My Valley?’ Desktop Geographic Information Systems as a Community-Based Participatory Mapping Tool.” Area 37, no. 2 (2005): 159-70. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20004445.




Week 6 – Qualitative Research in GIS and Framing an Historical Question

This week’s post comes to us from Dillon, who writes:

Assigned Readings

  • Part I: Fallacies of Question Framing,” in David Hackett Fischer’s Historians Fallacies
  • Chapters 1-3 in Cope Elwood’s Qualitative GIS
  • Chapters 3-4 in The Spatial Humanities


David Hackett Fischer’s chapter, “Fallacies of Question-Framing,” investigates eleven different fallacies in the historic discipline in relation to framing a question, and six different “must-haves” in shaping a historic questions. The fallacies he discusses range from the “fallacy of many questions,” in which two or more questions are asked once, or is framed to beg another question; to fictional questions that ask questions that essentially “prove nothing and can never be proved by an empirical method” (Fischer, pp 16). The bulk of the chapter dissects these fallacies and provides examples of them in historic scholarship. In the conclusion of the chapter, Fischer provides his six essentials to a good historic question: a question must be operational, open-ended, flexible, analytical, both explicit and precise, and must be tested.

In the Spatial Humanities Reader, “Geographic Information Science and Spatial Analysis for the Humanities,” by Karen Kemp and “Exploiting Time and Space: A Challenge for GIS in the Digital Humanities” by Ian Gregory were the focus this week. Kemp’s chapter provides foundational data requirements for GIS and how it can be utilized in the humanities. Kemp states that “it is necessary to understand some of the key fundamentals in geographic information science in modeling and analyzing the work using a computer” (Kemp, pp 33). Kemp sections her chapter into those different fundamentals (scale, objects and fields, methods of organizing data, location, different types of projections, application of spatial analysis, etc.…) and explains why they are important in using GIS in the humanities. With the foundations of GIS established, the following chapter by Ian Gregory explores the potential GIS has in creating a better understanding of time-space in the humanities, further bridging the divide of history and geography. Kemp briefly defines different types of time and relates them to space. The subsequent sections apply time, space, and time-space to history, the humanities, and GIS.

Meghan Cope and Sarah Elwood’s compilation, Qualitative GIS: A Mixed Methods Approach, is introduced by defining GIS and how qualitative methods can be applied to a seemly quantitative tool. Cope and Elwood argue that qualitative data can give perspective to quantitative data that is plotted on GIS maps. The second chapter, “Non-Quantitative GIS” by Marianna Pavlovskaya, investigates how GIS has traditionally been a power structure corporate, male dominated, quantitative, scientific epistemological tool and presents ways to deconstruct those notions in order to push to a more diverse, quantitative field. Pavlovskaya breaks the chapter into two sections. The first sections deals with seven “openings” in GIS which are exposed to show where non-quantitative methods can be implemented, and the second on ways to further expand qualitative possibilities to GIS. “Metadata as a Site for Imbuing GIS with Qualitative Information,” chapter three, by Nadine Schuurman explains metadata and ontology-based metadata when working with GIS. Schuurman explains how ontology-based metadata can provide a larger context, and qualitative aspects, to the data being worked with in GIS applications. Schuurman also explains how ontology-based metadata is obtained by using ethnographic methods.


  • In shaping our historical question for our project, what from Fischer’s chapter was helpful? What was not?
  • What types of qualitative research do you wish to seek out for your project? How will it relate to the qualitative?
  • In looking at Schuurman’s article, what stood out to you the most about ontology-based metadata?

Bibliography and Resources:

  • “Advancement of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.” Federal Geographic Data Committee, accessed September 20, 2017, https://www.fgdc.gov/nsdi/nsdi.html
  • Cooper, David and Ian N. Gregory. “Mapping the English Lake District: A Literary GIS.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 36, no. 1 (2011): 89-108, accessed September 19, 2017, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23020843
  • DeBats, Donald A. and Ian N. Gregory. “Introduction to Historical GIS and the Study of Urban History.” Social Science History 35, no. 4 (2011): 455-463, accessed September 19, 2017, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41407087
  • Entrikin, J. Nicholas. “GIS and the Geographical Self.” Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers 60, (1998): 158-161, accessed September 19, 2017, http://www.jstor.org/stable/24041468
  • Woodcock, Curtis E. and Sucharita Gopal. “Fuzzy set theory and thematic maps: accuracy assessment and area estimation.” International Journal of geographical Information Science 14, no. 2 (1999) : 153-172, accessed September 20, 2017, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=






Week 5 – Geospatial data, and Quantitative research

This week’s post comes to us from Amy, who writes:

Assigned readings

  • Margo Anderson, “Quantitative History,” Chapter 14 in, The SAGE Handbook of Social Science Methodology, William Outhwaite & Stephen P. Turner (SAGE 2007)
  • “The Quantitative Fallacy” in David Hackett Fischer’s Historians Fallacies
  • The Spatial Humanities: Intro, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2


Anderson’s “Quantitative History” chapter in The SAGE Handbook of Social Science Methodology overviews the techniques, goals, and critiques of the approach. Quantitative history is the study and use of statistical patterns a historian attentively compiles to answer a historical question. It allows the researcher to address “big questions about long-term historical patterns of change” by “assembling substantial amounts of numeric or countable information and organizing it into tabular data matrices for statistical analysis.” Quantitative history was first used by historians prior to the 1950s in economic and social history and continued to be used in the early 60s. By the mid-1960s, the American Historical Association recognized that “quantification in history” required new skills within the historical profession. Courses in quantitative methods for historians were held in the 60s and 70s. Journals, textbooks, and collections were also written on the approach during this time. Researchers finally created data archives, and by 1980, historians ensured quantitative history had institutional structures that allowed it to integrate into larger historical practice. With the new technologies being produced today, quantitative history and other digitizing projects have become more accessible to historians, allowing for a “technology enabled history.”

In “The Quantitative Fallacy,” Fischer describes this concept as the “idea that the facts which count best count most.” In other words, he argues that some historians use quantitative history to answer a historical question without the consideration of other variables, which leads to inaccurate conclusions. For quantitative data to be used effectively, quantitative data must be supplemented with qualitative data and other observations.

The chapter “Turning toward Place, Space, and Time” by Ayers in The Spatial Humanities discusses history’s approach on space, time, and place and the relationship between geography and history. The spatial turn, defined by a greater awareness of space, and the temporal turn, a greater awareness of time, have both found their place in history and geography. Ayers argues that with new technologies and techniques, historians can represent the intersection of space and place. This may take the form of writing, but it can also be illustrated through the use of digital tools. These tools allow historians and geographers to create projects like maps, which allow our brains to see patterns we might not otherwise see or hear through of language alone. “The Potential of Spatial Humanities” by Bodenhamer argues the importance of representing space in the humanities and social sciences and its role in our understanding of history and culture. The use of GIS in history has been gaining traction but is still not used by many humanists. Bodenhamer suggests the use of “deep mapping” as a way to “inform the present more fully with the artifacts of social memory.” Deep maps are visual, time-based, structurally open, and multi-layered with oral testimony, images, natural history, and anything else you might want to say about a place. They are supposed to bring the user into a virtual world. By converging GIS with other technologies, it may be possible to “construct deep maps and landscapes of culture for any place where people leave records of their experiences.”

Discussion Questions

  1. Think about the critiques of quantitative history Anderson mentions in her chapter and Fischer’s “The Quantitative Fallacy”. Does quantitative history pose any problems to the field of history or threaten traditional history in any way? Or do you think it simply enhances the field and complements its traditional counterpart?
  2. Will your group use quantitative data as a supplement to other variables in your projects? What kinds of quantitative data do you plan to use to support your project’s objectives?
  3. What kinds of digital tools have you used in the study of history before the start of this Digital History class? Which ones do you think were the most useful?

Bibliography and Resources

  • Aydelotte, William O., Allen G. Bogue, and Robert William Fogel, eds. The Dimensions of Quantitative Research in History. Princeton University Press, 1972.
  • Erickson, Charlotte. “Quantitative History.” The American Historical Review 80, no. 2. (April 1975): 351-365.
  • “Examples of Spatial Humanities Projects.” The New York Times, July 26, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/27/arts/spatial-maps.html?mcubz=0
  • Haskins, Loren and Kirk Jeffrey. Understanding Quantitative History. I.T. Press, 1990.
  • Hudson, Pat. History by Numbers: An Introduction to Quantitative Approaches. Hodder Education, 2000.
  • Jarausch, Konrad H. and Kenneth A. Hardy. Quantitative Methods for Historians: A Guide to Research, Data, and Statistics. University of North Carolina Press, 1991.
  • National Historic Geographic Information System https://www.nhgis.org/



Week 4 – Spatial Theory Continued

This week’s summary of readings and questions for discussion come from Kimberly:

Assigned readings

  • Alan Baker, Geography and History: Bridging the Divide (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
  • Doreen Massey, Space, Place, and Gender, Chapter 11 “Politics and Space/Time.”
  • Jon Stobart, ed. Spaces of Consumption, portions of Introduction, “The spatiality of consumption” and “Themes and scales of analysis.”
  • Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias.”

In Geography and History: Bridging the Divide, Alan R. H. Baker argues that both history and geography have much to gain by considering the other in their research, as they are intrinsically dependent on one another. By splitting the book into the four discourses of geography and how they compare to similar histories, Baker illustrates the depth that is lost when only geography or history is considered when analyzing a space. After setting up the concepts for his principles over the course of the previous five chapters, Baker closes the book by declaring seven principles of historical geography to highlight how history and geography work in tandem to more accurately study place. The first two principles compare historical geography with history, reflecting on how both question the past and both have “problematic” sources. The third principle centers around the importance of debate in evaluating and reevaluating interpretations, but more importantly methodologies used in research. While no amount of research will lead to “a definitive historical account,” on anything, an interpretation must be proven appropriate by withstanding debate. The fourth and fifth principles link historical geography back to geography, through the shared required knowledge of geographical change through time, and through the idea that historical geography is “central to geography as a whole.” Geographies that ignore, say the impacts of capitalism and expanding economies on geography, do not accurately reflect the geographies of the time. According to the sixth principle, spatial analysis should not be the focus of historical geography, as historical geographists focus on how society has shaped time and space, not the reverse. The seventh principle is arguably the most important for our class because it places emphasis on “historical specificity of particular places,” and uncovering the distinct patterns of a specific place, instead of the broad patterns of many common places. Ultimately, historical geographies should tell “place histories” that are specific and not limited to merely history or geography, but rather an intrinsic blend of both disciplines.

In the Spatial Theory Reader, Foucault and Massey and Stobart discuss the concept of space and how we conceptualize and understand it through history. Foucault looks at spaces through the concept of “heterotopias,” which is a way to analyze spaces through a different lens, much like geography presents a different lens for the study of history. He outlines the ideas of crisis and deviation heterotopias and six principles of the interpretation of heterotopia. Massey’s chapter on space, time and politics discusses how space is “implicated in the production of history,” so the social and the spatial cannot be removed from one another. Massey also discussed the role of randomness, here called “chaos” in the role of spatial theory. At once, space is both logical and ordered, but also chaotic in nature, like the juxtaposition of vastly different land use in Los Angeles. In the introduction to his book, Stobart emphasizes the ways in which space is defined, and similar to Massey’s chapter, how those spaces are defined by their functions. Both Massey and Stobart argue that social and spatial histories are intrinsically linked and to ignore one would be to fail to truly analyze the other.

Discussion Questions

  1. Moving into our projects, how can we apply the seven principles of historical geography to our research methods? Which principle do you think will be most applicable to your specific project?
  2. How can we use the writings of Foucault, Massey, and Stobart to support one of the principles of Baker’s book? What role does their spatial analysis play in our upcoming projects?
  3. Baker states that “landscape is a unity of people and environment, not a false dichotomy of people and nature.” How can we avoid building a false dichotomy going when researching and analyzing the landscape of Fort Collins?

Additional Sources

  • Andrews, Howard F. “The Early Life of Paul Vidal De La Blache and the Makings of Modern Geography.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 11, no. 2 (1986): 174-82. doi:10.2307/622004.
  • Birnbaum, Charles A. “Protecting Cultural Landscapes: Planning, Treatment and Management of Historic Landscapes.” National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/36-cultural-landscapes.htm
  • Heffernan, Michael. 2001. “History, Geography and the French National Space: The Question of Alsace–Lorraine, 1914–18.” Space & Polity 5, no. 1: 27-48. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost
  • Kessler, Benjamin. National Geographic Society. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/media/geography-jazz/
  • Thrift, Nigel. “For a New Regional Geography 2.” Progress in Human Geography 15, no. 4 (December 1, 1991): 456-65. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/030913259101500407?journalCode=phgb#articleCitationDownloadContainer
  • University of Richmond. http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/


Week 2 – Spatial Theory

This week’s summary of readings and questions for discussion come from Patrick

Assigned readings

  • Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Cambridge MA: Blackwell, 1990. (Chapter 13)
  • Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Cambridge MA: Blackwell, 1992. (Part I “Plan of the Present Work,” Part II “Social Space,” and Part 7 “Openings and Conclusions”)


To quote David Harvey, Henry Lefebvre’s The Production of Space is nothing short of “magisterial.” In the 1974 publication, Lefebvre deftly wields Marxist philosophy as a tool to unravel the complexity of spatial theory. The text itself begins with an explosive opening volley in which Lefebvre directly engages with the ideas of the likes of Foucault, Chomsky, and Descartes. The philosopher eventually arrives at the equal-parts philosophical and political assertion that space exists not only as “knowledge and action in the existing mode of production,” but also as an instrument of continued dominance by hegemony. In his own words, Lefebvre’s stated goal is “to expose the actual production of space by bringing the various kinds of space and the modalities of their genesis together within a single theory.” To this end, the philosopher isolates the categories in which to divide the idea of “space:” the physical, the mental, and the social. Physical space includes the likes of nature, mental space the likes of thought and logic, and social space the area in which the previous two are experienced together. A further triad emerges from the above, consisting of spatial practice, representations of space, and representational space. This triad is key to understanding Lefebvre’s argument, and relates to the previous three categories of space. Spatial practice refers to production, representation of space to the way we order space, and representational space to the symbolism used to understand space. This triad, Lefebvre argues, has immediate and important social and political implications, and, as he notes, “If space is produced, if there is a productive process, then we are dealing with history.”

In the chapter “Individual spaces and times in social life,” David Harvey examines space and time through the lens of social action. Like Lefebvre, Harvey expresses interest in production, particularly of “stations and domains,” and the emergence of hegemonic structures. Harvey quickly comes to wrestle with the ideas of the likes of Foucault, Bourdieu and De Certeau, criticizing Foucault for a somewhat rigid definition of space, while praising De Certeau for advancing “social spaces as more open to human creativity and action.” Harvey posits that “spatial and temporal practices, in any society, abound in subtleties and complexities.” He proceeds to attempt to explore these complexities through the utilization of Lefebvre’s aforementioned “triad.” Harvey sees modernism and postmodernism as shifting the experience of space and time, and his application of Lefebvre’s triad to a grid is an attempt to open new dialogue. Harvey then explores the ideas of Gurvitch, who studies the idea of social time without being constrained by Lefebvre’s triad. Harvey concludes that “time and space (or language, for that matter) cannot be understood independently of social action.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. Lefebvre’s argument on the nature of spatial theory is not meant to be contained to the realm of philosophy or academia. Lefebvre’s ideas have the potential for very practical application and utilization by public historians. How can Lefebvre’s ideas – especially his ideas concerning the categories of space – inform our work as we prepare to undertake a project for the city of Fort Collins?
  2. Some historians have called on others in the profession to begin practicing history with a greater consideration for the longue durée. The longue durée prioritizes a long-term approach for historical questions, rather than searching for immediate causes. Would Lefebvre agree with a longue durée approach to history? Why or why not?
  3. Both Harvey (1990) and Lefebvre (1974) published their works before digital methods such as GIS became readily available to historians. What role does the production of digital history play in the production of spatial theory? How will digital methods affect our understanding of spatial theory?

Additional Reading

  • Carroll, Bret. “Religion in Space: Spatial Approaches to American Religious Studies.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. (2015). Accessed 23 Aug 2017. http://religion.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-13
  • Ethington, Philip J. “Placing the Past: ’Groundwork’ for a Spatial Theory of History.” Rethinking History 11 (2007): 465-494.
  • Geddes, Alistair, and Ian N. Gregory. Toward Spatial Humanities, edited by Alistair Geddes, and Ian N. Gregory. Indiana University Press, 2014.
  • Hägerstrand, Torsten. “What about People in Regional Science?” Papers of the Regional Science Association 24 (1970): 7-21.
  • Pugalis, Lee. “A Conceptual and Analytical Framework for Interpreting the Spatiality of Social Life.” FORUM eJournal 9 (2009): 77-98.
  • Withers, Charles. “Place and the ‘Spatial Turn’ in Geography and History.” Journal of the History of Ideas 70 (2009). 637-58.