The Spatial Humanities Kit

Matt Applegate (mapplega@gmail.com), Molloy College, United States of America and Jamie Cohen (jamesncohen@gmail.com), Molloy College, United States of America

This poster session showcases “the spatial humanities kit”: a combination of gear, open source code, and teaching materials for narrative GIS projects (http://spatialhumanitieskit.org/). The kit was derived and assembled from two international mapping projects executed by students and guided by faculty at Molloy College and Hofstra University. The kit includes the following gear and code, all of which will be available for faculty to interact with at DH 2018: an introduction to GeoJson with code also applicable for Mapbox, Open Street Map, and ArcGIS, an Insta 360 Camera, Snapchat Spectacles, two Garmin ETreX 20x GPS devices with preinstalled maps, a Samsung 360 Camera, a chicken foot tripod, Samsung Gear Oculus HMD, user cell phone cameras, a Skyroam Global Hotspot, a GoPuck Qualcomm Charge 3.0, and a GoPro Session.

Project Description & Framework:

The spatial humanities kit is a durable toolset designed to fit in a backpack. The gear and code that it features are meant to combine and enhance two approaches to GIS related work in the humanities. First, the combination of gear included in the kit is designed for their user to narrativize the spaces that they map. Following Jason Farman’s approach to locative media, the gear’s use is predicated on two concepts in particular, “site specificity” and “urban markup.” Site specificity, as Farman defines it, pertains to “the unique qualities of a unique location that cannot be transferred onto another place,” whereas urban markup refers to “the various ways that narrative gets attached to a specific place in a city.” The spatial humanities kit is designed to capture both.

In the summer of 2016 students at Molloy College traveled to Northeastern Ireland and documented their trip under faculty guidance via the spatial humanities kit and an Omeka archive (http://molloymediaarchaeology.org). Students documented and narrativized their experience of urban and rural space, historical sites, and religious sites, combining the unique qualities of each location (GPS coordinates, landmarks, etc.) with a linear telling of their site specific experiences. In the summer of 2017, the project was refined and expanded to Hofstra University. Students used the kit under faculty guidance in Italy to research and report on social inequality, government corruption, recovery and revitalization, and media change in earthquake damaged L’Aquila, the Naples region of Scampìa, and the Roman town of Frascati (http://lhscmediaarchaeology.org).

Ultimately, both projects, especially in their map’s function as an artifact, play with the spatial humanities use and function. Where our use of the kit has emphasized autoethnography, social good, and bringing accountability to historical narratives, the spatial humanities kit augments the discipline’s preoccupation with space-time. Consider Ian Gregory’s engagement with Doreen Massey’s work in “Exploiting Time and Space: A Challenge for GIS in the Digital Humanities”: “Time is needed to tell the story of how an individual place developed to become what it is now, however without space there is only one story and thus the risk that it is seen as the only possible story and the inevitable story.” Thus far, the spatial humanities kit has expanded the narrative possibilities of humanities GIS projects by multiplying narratives about spaces that are mapped.

Interactive Experience:

Our proposed poster session will offer faculty the opportunity to learn what the spatial humanities kit is, how they can adopt it, and how students can operationalize it. In addition to the kit itself, we will offer faculty syllabi, access to the Molloy and Hofstra University projects, as well as the source code for our maps. Our goal is to maximize the use and function of the kit by making our work, and our student’s work, more broadly available. Further, we aim to approach the interaction between tools for digital storytelling and approaches to spatial humanities differently by combining both toolsets with their attendant pedagogical applications.


Appendix A

Bibliography
  1. Farman, Jason. The Mobile Story: Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies. Routledge, 2013.
  2. Gregory, Ian. “Exploiting Time and Space: A Challenge for GIS in the Digital Humanities.” The Spatial Humanities. Eds. David J. Bodenhamer, John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris. Indiana University Press, 2010.