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Mapping

The following screen shots are from a map that I created with StoryMaps JS as part of my ENG 818 course in Spring 2020, and it was the last project I started before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns hit. In fact, I was in East Lansing’s Espresso Royale with Dr. Scott Michaelsen on March 11 discussing the various directions I could go with this project when the university sent out an email announcing a case had been discovered on campus and everyone would be going home noon that day. Funnily enough, this project was for a Climate Fiction course, which of course addressed the potentiality of world changing plague. This short proposal for a map was all that ever came of this project, so I was excited to explore mapping again this week.

The introduction to my map of the Little Ice Age in Early Modern Europe.
Example 1: Paul Gerhardt’s “Occassioned by Great and Unseasonable Rain”
Example 2: William Shakespeare’s King Lear

What has drawn me to wanting to participate in mapping projects in the digital humanities is the dynamism of visuals along with the bending of spatial and temporal logic to portray a more humanistic version of these kinds of narratives. As Todd Presner and David Shepard wrote in “Mapping the Geospatial Turn,” “Maps and models are never static representations or accurate reflections of a past reality; instead, they function as arguments or propositions that betray a state of knowledge, Each of these projects is a snapshot of a state of knowledge, a propositioned argumnet in the form of dynamic geo-visualizations” (207). The humanistic reconceptualizations of space and time are incredibly interesting to me, and I’m hoping to eventually include some sort of mapping element in my dissertation project.

I was probably most interested in the case studies we read for this week, although I enjoyed the various examples shared by Tim Hitchcock in his blog post “Place and the Politics of the Past,” particularly his discussion of how he worked with recreating London maps to more clearly represent his project data as this is something I’m hoping to do with early modern theatres in England. Fletcher & Helmrecih’s project, which was discussed in their essay “Local/Global: Mapping Nineteenth-Century London’s Art Market,” provided an example of how maps can be effectively combined with other forms of visualizations (in this case, networks) to better represent the scope of the layers of people and places that were key to their research. Cameron Blevins’s “Space, Nation, and the Triump of Region: A View of the World from Houston” (and web companion) detailed the ways space can be produced and combined textual analysis of newspapers with mapping visualizations to represent how a specific publication represented the country to its readers. I’ve currently been engaging with Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space as part of my research, so seeing it appear in multiple readings this week in terms of how it can apply to a digital humanities project was incredibly useful.

Since I had previous experience with both StoryMaps JS and the Geolocation module in Omeka, I dedicated most of my time this work to experimenting with map creation in Flourish. Below, you can see my attempts at creating a data map with pins and a choropleth map. Flourish is pretty user friendly and after watching Albert Cairo’s tutorials I felt fairly confident in my ability to create the map with pins using the data from the Alabama Slave Narratives CSV. I struggle more with the creating the choropleth map, as for some reason I had a difficult time getting the matching of columns between the JSON and CSV files to run. However, I was eventually able to get it to run, and it resulted in the second of the two maps below. I ended up focusing on the portion of the workbook dedicated to religious organizations by denomination.

Overall, I think this week was very influential in helping me think through how I might use mapping visualizations in my dissertation project. It also made me rethink what I might want to do for the grant writing project for this course. I’m looking forward to next week’s unit on visualizations to see how I might make connections between these different elements!

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