Spatial Humanities Initiative Lecture Series


Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Spatial Humanities Initiative Lecture Series highights the research of scholars who are interested in space but also exploit a vast assortment of information technologies; explore, critique, and experience the modeling and mapping of historic sites and events; and together incubate a multi-disciplinary and broadly humanistic collaboration among interested tech innovators, faculty, and students.

David Heyman
Foundations of Interactive Cartography: A Concept-to-Completion Approach to Map Production for Digital Humanities

October 6, 2017 | 4:00pm | Humanities Building 115

Though it is shrinking every year, there still exists a significant barrier to entry for many humanities scholars who want to present their work in an interactive medium. This talk aims to provide both a conceptual and practical overview of the production process for a digital humanities interactive map by looking at examples from Axis Maps' portfolio of digital humanities projects. We will look at technological issues around collecting, storing, and distributing the data that powers interactive maps. Then we will examine considerations for the design of a product, both the cartographic visual communication and the look, feel, and structure of the user interface. Finally we will look at different approaches and common open source code libraries used in the implementation of these projects. The goal of the talk is to provide a framework for envisaging your own potential digital humanities projects as well as examining the technical and practical aspects of projects you encounter.

David Heyman is the founder and Managing Director of Axis Maps.

Heather Richards-Rissetto
Sights and Sounds—Mapping and Modeling Synesthetic Experiences in Ancient Maya Cities

January 18, 2018 | 4:00pm | Location TBA

For the ancient Maya, sights and sounds worked in concert to create synesthetic experiences that influenced daily life and shaped society. Spatial configurations of temples, ball courts, stelae, dwellings, and other architecture played integral roles in shaping and re-shaping city life. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) offer tools and methods to derive quantified and geovisualized data to explore the potential roles of vision and sound in structuring human interaction and experience. And yet, GIS alone, leaves untapped research avenues. Digital technologies such as photogrammetry, laser scanning, and airborne LiDAR allow us to create 3D models of extant architecture within contemporary landscapes. But what about missing architecture? How do we simulate ancient cities rather than simply visualize present archaeological landscapes? 3D Modeling software affords us possibilities to reconstruct non-extant architecture but typically requires time-consuming manual modeling. An alternative—procedural modeling—applies “standardized” rules to rapidly generate 3D architectural models allowing 3D reconstructions of ancient cities based on GIS data. Exporting these 3D GIS-derived data into an immersive Virtual Reality platform allows for cross-disciplinary humanistic and scientific analysis. In this talk, I discuss how the MayaCityBuilder Project is using GIS and 3D data in multiple platforms to explore sight and sound in eighth century Copan—today a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Honduras.

Heather Richards-Rissetto is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Chet Van Duzer
New Light on Henricus Martellus’s World Map at Yale (c. 1491): Multispectral Imaging and Early Renaissance Cartography

January 25, 2018 | 4:00pm | Location TBA

In this talk Van Duzer will give an account of a recent project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to make multispectral images of a world map made by Henricus Martellus in about 1491, which is held by the Beinecke Library at Yale. This large map has long been thought to be one of the most important of the fifteenth century, and was thought to have influenced Martin Waldseemüller’s world map of 1507, but the many texts on the map were illegible due to fading and damage, and thus its exact place in Renaissance cartography was impossible to determine. The new multispectral images have rendered most of the previously illegible texts on the map legible. Van Duzer will explain why the Martellus map was an excellent candidate for multispectral imaging, describe the process of making the images, show the results, and give an account of the place of the Martellus map in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century cartography.

Chet Van Duzer is an NEH-Mellon Fellow at the Library of Congress and a board member of the Lazarus Project at the University of Rochester.

Shannon MatternShannon Mattern


Map as Method and Medium

March 29, 2018  | 4:00pm | Location TBA

The prevalence of smartphones, the rise of Google, and the widespread availability of open geographic data have made maps an everyday, everywhere medium. Within the academy, these same developments, compounded with greater access to digitized archival material, have led to the increased use of mapping as a method and mode of representation in a variety of disciplines. As these geospatial tools shape our modes of inquiry – and even help to frame the very questions we ask – it’s important that we recognize maps’ epistemological, ontological, and pedagogical power. Regarding maps as media, I argue, compels us to think more broadly and critically about how they work – to consider their material forms and sensory codes; the protocols that direct their operation; the processes by which they’re created, circulated, and used – and by whom. And thinking about map-making as media-making prompts us to appreciate the wide variety of cartographic practices at our disposal, and to weigh the affordances and limitations of various mapping tools and techniques. In some cases, we might find that not all phenomena lend themselves to “mediation” as points, lines and areas; and that not all things can – or should – be mapped.

Shannon Mattern is Associate Professor in the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York.