Digital Mapping + Geospatial Humanities

LA 512 | ARCH 462

June 16-20, 2014
9-6 M-F
Pearl Hall, 217
Fred Gibbs (

Course Description

We are in the midst of a major paradigm shift in human consciousness and society caused by our ubiquitous connectedness via the internet and smartphones. These globalizing forces have telescoped space and time to an unprecedented degree, while paradoxically heightening the importance of local places.

The course explores the technologies, tools, and workflows that can help collect, connect, and present online interpretations of the spaces around us. Throughout the week, we’ll discuss the theoretical and practical challenges of deep mapping (producing rich, interactive maps with multiple layers of information). Woven into our discussions will be numerous technical tutorials that will allow us to tell map-based stories about Albuquerque’s fascinating past.

This course combines cartography, geography, GIS, history, sociology, ethnography, computer science, and graphic design. While we cover some of the basics of each of these, the course eschews developing deep expertise in any of these in favor of exploring their intersections with each other, and formulating critical questions that span these normally disconnected disciplines. By the end, you should be able to think more critically about maps, place, and our online experiences with them.

We’ll move from creating simple maps with Google Maps/Earth to creating your own custom, interactive online maps with various open source tools like QGIS, Open Street Map, and D3 that leverage the power of open data from local and national repositories to provide new perspectives on the built environment. We’ll also use various mobile apps for data collection, online exhibit software, (physical and digital) historical archives at the Center for Southwest Research. Along the way we’ll cover the various data formats (KML, XML, GeoJSON, TopoJSON) used by different tools and how to move between them, allowing you to craft the most efficient workflow for your mapping purposes.

Course readings that aren’t freely availabe online (and even some that are) can be accessed via the course Zotero Library. You’ll need to be invited to join the group since we use it to distribute course readings. If you are not familiar with Zotero, here are some instructions.

Course Objectives

  • Appreciate the theoretical possibilities and practical limitations of deep digital mapping.

  • Understand the principles of new media, linked open data, and interface design as applies to the geospatial humanities.

  • Combine qualitative and quantitative analytical skills

  • Begin to experiment with new tools, workflows, methods, and techniques for mapping the urban environment, including QGIS, Omeka + Neatline, Google Maps/Earth, basic web mapping concepts, basic web programming, Javascript, SVG, D3.

  • Develop awareness and conversational fluency in geographic data formats, technologies, and tools so that you can produce maps and troubleshoot new challenges on your own.

  • Must be able to have fun while totally frustrated, even when this stupid little thing takes way longer than it should.

  • GRADUATE STUDENTS: In addition to all other activities on the syllabus, you’ll also take turns leading discussion of reading topics.

  • EVERYONE: The key to success with the technical components of this course (both learning-wise and grade-wise) is to make mistakes and fail as frequently as possible. If you’re not, then you’re simply not trying to push beyond your own limitations. Once you fail at something, we’ll get you unstuck and moving forward again. Repeating this often will make the course more rewarding and you’ll get a high grade for your effort.

June 16: Monday

Introductions of Persons and Course Overview

Evaluation and Discussion of Online Maps

What do we like? What might we borrow? What should we avoid?

Map Porn

Innovative Maps as reviewed by CityLab
Making Maps: DIY Cartography
Totally random, usually interesting
Google Map Examples
Food in America

Particular Projects

Pompeii Bibliography and Mapping Project
Digital Harlem
Regnum Francorum Online
US Atlas of Religion
Walking Through Time
Invasion of America

Community Engagement

History of San Francisco Streets (with an interesting explanation)
Reimagining Whalley
Philadelphia Bike Crashes
Mapping Addiction

Larger Mapping Platforms

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
HyperCities | More on this
Stanford Spatial History Project

Telling Stories with Maps

Story Maps
Omeka + Neatline

Projects relating to place and history in ABQ

City of ABQ Maps
Historic Albuquerque
Historic Old Town
Historic Photo Archive
New Mexico Historic Markers
Albuquerque Murals Project
The Plazas of New Mexico

Establish Twitter Connections

Skeptical? Read this and this. But you don’t get a choice, anyway.

Origins of Spatial Humanities

Chris Wilson, J. B. Jackson Professor of Cultural Landscape Studies

  • Reading and Discussion Guide.
  • Edward T. Hall, Beyond Culture, 129-140.
  • Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class, 215-234.
  • Setha Low, On the Plaza: Politics of Public Space and Culture, 127-153.
  • Dave Hickey, “Romancing the Looky-Loos,”

Planning Our ABQ Map Project

We’ll work together to create a richly layered interactive map that displays, contextualizes, and historicizes some features of ABQ. The particular topic (if there is a general theme) can be just about anything as long as it has a spatial and historical component. The goal is to create a new kind of spatial interface to understanding the space around us. Ideally, our individual contributions will present different views or facets of ABQ that are displayed spatially and thoroughly contextualized.

  • What should the modern walking tour look like? (i.e. how to explore the past and present of the built environment?)?
  • How might we extend the photography work from the “Photographing the Build Environment” course?
  • Can we build a better version of an existing city map?
  • Tell a story about ABQ murals, graffiti, empty lots, displaced shopping carts, street gradients, etc.
  • Can we tell a stories about not just historic places but historic spaces? (ie the context of these historic landmarks?)
  • How we can chart the development of the Highland neighborhood over time? (expanding the historical dimension of the redevelopment plan)

Tuesday June 17

Digital and Spatial Humanities

  • Chapter 1, 3-26; Case Studies, 61-71 in Digital_Humanities (in the Zotero Library, and also an online PDF
  • Ed Ayers, “Turing Toward Place” (1-13); David Bodenhamer, “The Potential of Spatial Humanities” (14-30) in David J Bodenhamer et al. (eds.), _The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship.
  • Michel de Certeau, “Spatial Practices,” 91-130.

Historical Research on ABQ

Ann Massmann, Southwest Studies Librarian, Center for Southwest Research
Terry Ann Gugliotta, University Archivst

Download (for iPhone/iPad) UNM Pocket Archivist

Principles of Mapping and Google Maps

Start making maps

  • Experience the lite-ness of Google Maps Engine Lite, but use the ABQ public art data
  • Style the map; imagine better interfaces! (we’ll make them later)
  • Using Google Earth and historic maps together

Geodata formats and services

Spatial History

Virtual New Mexico

Tim Castillo, Director of ARTSlab

Historical Research Sources

Chronicling America Newspaper Archive
New Mexico Digital Collections
Rocky Mountain Online Archive
Albuquerque Historical Postcard Collection
Digital Sanborn Maps

Online Exhibits Review

Omeka + Neatline

Wednesday June 18


If you’re not familiar with GIS systems, or if unfamiliar terms crop up in the tutorials, check out this gentle introduction. When you want to play, download and install QGIS. If you get stuck or have questions, consult the QGIS Training Manual, the QGIS wiki, and an array of tutorials.

We’ll cover the following:

  • Basic GIS concepts
  • Loading a few varieties of data layers
  • Combining data tables

Crowdsourcing Data

Global GeoData Sources

Natural Earth Data
Hack for Change

Local GeoData Sources

ABQ Open Data
UNM GIS Data Clearinghouse

Non-geographic-specific data sources

Chronicling America
Time Magazine Corpus
Internet Archive
Digital Public Library of America

Data Collection

Eric Bernard, Director, Landscape Architecture

Creating Your Own Data

  • Andrew Turner, Introduction to Neogeography
  • Miles Ogborn, Spaces of Modernity, 1-38.
  • Setha Low et al., Rethinking Urban Parks: Public Space and Cultural Diversity, 175-193.

A Bit of Code

Channelning your Inner Terminal

Thursday, June 19

Overlaying Historic Maps

Overview of Georeferencing Historic Maps

Historic Map Sources

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection and their list of Historic Maps
David Rumsey Map Collection
Library of Congress
USGS Historical Topo Maps
BIG Map Blog
Old Maps Online
Broer Map Library

LAB: put your (historic) data on a historic map

  • Download historic map
  • Georectify the image in QGIS
  • Create new vector layers from historic map overlay
  • View some (historic) data several vector layers on the map

Mapping Uncertainty

Web Mapping Basics

We’ll cover how to create your own interactive maps online. Why? Because you can add much more custom interactivity than generic tools and services allow. This is an exercise in design imagination.

Creating Your Own Web Maps

  • Install MAMP (Mac) or WAMP (Windows) so you can make webpages on your own computer
  • Make a simple webpage that follows the example
  • Add a simple Google map using these instructions.
  • Go through the 4 other tutorials on that page, including “Displaying KML,” but using the KML file that you created and exported from the earlier Google exercise.

Alternatives to Google

There are some reasons one might not want to use Google Maps for your web mapping needs:

  • don’t want to be beholden to their terms of service
  • you prefer to use open source rather than proprietary tools and data
  • you’re site will go viral and you’ll exceed your request limit
  • various copyright and privacy issues
  • they look like Google maps and you want something more unique

Several excellent alternatives:


No matter what library you use for putting a map on your webpage, you can get map tiles from several sources, including Stamen Maps.

MapBox helps you link your own data and provides an online style editor for customizing the look of your map. For more flexibility, use a desktop editor called TileMill.

LAB: Creating your own tiled maps

Walk through the tutorial for uploading your data, facilitating custom interactivity. Essentially, this tool allows you to create your own tiles that you can publish on (a free account gives you limited space, of course), and you can load these onto any web page.

Friday, June 20

Web Maps and Interactivity

Sections on JAVASCRIPT and SVG from Interactive Data Visualization

Parts 5,6,7,8,9 of Dashing D3.js tutorial part 5 starts here

Section on D3 from Interactive Data Visualization

Check out the array of Web Mapping Tutorials.

If you want to move between shapefiles and SVG, try Kartograph

For mobile devices, this tutorial shows you how to reduce file size of shapefiles for increased speed.

Work time!

Power down

  • course conclusions
  • workplans for final project completion
  • evaluations