For a long time, the creation of maps for research purposes was dominated by commercial software of considerable complexity, and left to highly trained specialists. Because of the recent converging technological trends, however, opportunities of spatial tools are expanding rapidly. Ongoing efforts to work towards georeferencing standards, the exchangeability of geospatial data, and the interoperability of systems make it increasingly easier to access, and share spatial data  and thus open up new resources mostly unavailable before. The quality of remote-sensing and satellite imagery is dramatically increasing. Mobile global positioning system devices are raising the prospect of collecting location-specific information quickly and cheaply. In fact, web mapping is rapidly gaining popularity as one of the most convenient tools to integrate and view spatial information in a wide range of sectors.
 
Methodological core issues addressed are:
 
● What kind of spatial questions can be asked in social research?
● How and where can spatially relevant information be discovered, accessed and collected and how is it referenced within a spatial framework?
● What tools and processes can help to visualize space and place and how?
● How can spatial representations and maps be applied as exploratory tool, as analytical tool, as argument?
 
Those will be addressed in the context of small research projects conducted by the students. Projects will cover the geographical areas of Africa, America, and Europe. Students will be assigned to a project team specializing in a geographic region. Teams will collect, prepare, visualize and analyze spatial information applying appropriate spatial tools. Potential data sources include historical maps, satellite imagery, GPS data, and topographic maps, which will be linked to demographic, ethnographic, socio-economic and other relevant information.  Selected readings and guest lectures will complement the project work and provide an opportunity to reflect on how methodological approaches correspond to analytical questions, and how representations shape our understanding of
space and place.
 
This course requires a minimum of familiarity with computers and an openness to experiment with new technologies.
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