Web Mapping for Digital Humanities

Diana Sinton’s piece and the UCLA Sandbox article engages the different dimensions of web mapping. One important takeaway from these articles is that in humanities, mapping has no single definition because it is a multi-faceted methodology that scholars use to variously depict the correlation between objects in space and in time. Multifacetedly, maps have been expressed in/through Minard, Hypercities, Google Earth, and Simile. Underpinning these forms of expression are two important components of web mapping: spatiality and temporality.

It appears that every map is developed with the idea of visually depicting the relationship of an object or a phenomenon between a geographical space and time. This understanding helps to explain why the Minard’s map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign in 1812 (for instance) underscores the evolution of Napoleon’s expedition over time vis-à-vis the geographical space, amidst the other important themes that the map portrays.

Sinton makes an important point that the expectation of a project plays an integral role in selecting the type of map to be used for that project. For instance, maps that can be generated with software such as a geographic information system (GIS) depict spaces that have a consistent scale throughout and portray information as representations of simple geometric shapes. Such maps are designed for geometrically consistent spaces rather than representing nuanced “senses of place” (Cresswell 2004). Digital cartography, on the other hand, is limited in its capacity to capture and display factors of cultural geography that we associate with the human experience, producing instead “positivist representations of space” (Pearce and Louis 2008). So having realistic expectations for what a digital map alone can support or provide is worthwhile

I look forward to engaging in practical mapping projects in today’s class.

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