April 18 – “GIS: Approaches and Exemplars”

Our next GISSIG event will be April 18, 3:00-5:00 p.m. at the Stanford Humanities Center. Our guests, Ruth Mostern (University of California, Merced), Paul S. Ell (Queen’s University, Belfast) and Ian Gregory (Lancaster University), will present exemplary GIS research agendas.

Ruth Mostern, Paul S. Ell, and Ian Gregory

Geographical information is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Cars and cell phones support intuitive and visually compelling navigation systems; mapping services are a feature of sites promoting real estate, public safety, and recreation; news reports are saturated with descriptive and often interactive maps. In academia, the capacity to readily organize, analyze and visualize geographical information has changed the face of disciplines from Environmental Science to Sociology. “Learning to think spatially,” as a recent report from the National Research Council puts it, has emerged as a challenge for scholars, students, and society alike.
Geographic information science and systems hold the promise for reshaping scholarship in the humanities. However, uptake in the humanities has been relatively slow. For our disciplines, normally grounded in close, contextualized and nuanced readings of texts, the demand for quantification and modeling can be challenging, and the available data in any area may be sparse and inconsistent. Nevertheless, in the past decade, scholars have used GIS in the humanities to expand our knowledge of culture while challenging the technology to better suit our disciplinary traditions.
In this presentation, we consider exemplary GIS research agendas that have shown promise in both approaches and results. We will reflect on both the new knowledge they provide about culture and history, and on the ways that humanists and social scientists can extend and enhance the capacity of all scholars to be more sophisticated spatial thinkers.

Ruth Mostern

Ruth Mostern is Assistant Professor and Founding Faculty in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at the University of California, Merced. Before joining the UC Merced faculty, she was Head of Collections Development for the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative, and continues to sit on the ECAI ePublications board. She is also on the steering committee of Pleiades: an Online Workspace for Ancient Geography and has served as Historical Geography network chair for the Social Science History Association. She is a specialist in geographical history with particular interests in spatial organization in imperial China, and the development of digital tools and methods for historical geography. She is the author of several articles and is currently completing a book entitled Apprehending the Realm: Territory and Authority in China During the Song Era (960-1276 CE). She is Principal Investigator on a grant from the Hewlett Foundation to create an interactive timeline builder for historical study and has recently received research fellowships from the University of California President’s Research Fellowships in the Humanities and the University of Sydney School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry.

Paul S. Ell

Paul S Ell is the founding director of the Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis at Queen’s University Belfast. He has research interests in e-Science, e-resources and Geographical Information Systems. He is the author of many articles and half a dozen books including two published by Cambridge University Press, one examining the geography of Victorian religion in Britain, and a second looking at the role of Geographical Information Systems in the Humanities and Arts. As director of CDDA he has been awarded more than 45 grants worth, in total, over $10 million. He actively promotes the Centre and Queen’s University internationally in a leadership role within the University of California at Berkeley based Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative, and as an organiser of conference sessions at the Association of American Geographers and the US-based Social Science History Association. He has established memoranda of understanding with key research centres around the world with e-resource and GIS interests including the Humanities GIS Center at Academia Sinica in Taiwan, the Polis Center at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and with International and Area Studies at UC Berkeley. He is co-editor of the new Edinburgh University Press International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing.

Ian Gregory

Dr. Ian Gregory is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at Lancaster University where he leads the university’s initiative in digital humanities. His main research interests are in using GIS in historical research and the humanities more broadly. He has written two books on this topic and a large number of journal articles and book chapters on this topic. He has twice been network chair of the Social Science History Association’s Historical Geography network, is on the advisory committee of the Arts and Humanities Data Service, History, is on the Institutional Board of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative, and is on the editorial boards of Social Science History, Historical Methods, and the recently re-launched International Journal of Arts and Humanities Computing. Current funded projects include the Historical GIS Research Network, an Economic and Social Research Council funded project to encourage the use of GIS amongst historians (see http://www.hgis.org.uk) and a National Endowment for the Humanities funded project on the links between railways and rural population change in nineteenth century England and France.

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