Scheduled for 2:30-3:20 in Hirshon Suite (205), 55 W. 13th Street
While the use of GIS for the humanities (particularly history) has been discussed for quite some time now, it still seems to be unclear to many scholars what kind of fundamental new insights GIS is supposed to deliver. Given its nature as positivistic tool that allows one only to deal with Euclidean geometries and Cartesian spaces, it seems somewhat implausible that GIS can offer more than trivial visualizations of locations and quantitative data. I would like to have a session where we could discuss these issues, i.e. what epistemic value GIS offers for the humanities, what kind of space it represents (i.e. predominantly Western, male spaces?), or what the alternative to the existing GIS software could be.
Looking at the kind of visualizations that GIS offers — most of the time, thematic maps — I wonder what the deal is. These kind of maps have been produced for over a hundred years now, but they often lack context and provide for little more than banal illustrations with little to no explanatory power. Frankly, what can we learn from a GIS in the humanities we couldn’t learn otherwise? We have been told that there is a “Spatial Turn” in the humanities for two decades now or so, so why is there not more GIS in scholarly work?
I have both argued for alternative software (and developed it) and for alternative approaches (e.g. use GIS as paint program rather than as scientific tool, and interpret its visualizations accordingly). I’d like to discuss/hear other people’s opinions and experiences.