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Digital Maps and Visualizations for Research and Public Outreach

Thu, March 31, 8:00 to 9:30am, Westin Seattle Hotel, Grand Crescent

Session Submission Type: Panel


The use of historical geographic information systems (HGIS) and data visualization is growing rapidly among humanities scholars. These technologies and methods facilitate research with datasets which are simply too big for traditional methods, making possible the identification and analysis of patterns and relationships otherwise concealed. HGIS has proved particularly promising for environmental history: it is especially effective in identifying spatial relations, which in turn are of crucial importance for this place-sensitive discipline. Environmental historians are also starting to experiment with other data visualizations, beyond standard maps, charts and graphs, to explore increasingly large databases. The potential of these technologies and methods for environmental history is not limited to the expansion of its analytical possibilities. When combined with online multimedia formats, they offer fascinating opportunities for public outreach and non-conventional research outputs. Visualizations and interactive maps stimulate different cognitive abilities than written words, which can make them well suited to reach a non-specialist audience. Online projects, moreover, empower the users by liberating them from the constraints of linear textual narrative and allowing them to transform and explore the information in a creative way. Finally, these formats can be constantly updated, which opens them to inputs from the users and crowdsourcing. This panel explores the potential of HGIS and data visualization to improve research and for public outreach in environmental history by presenting four ongoing projects.

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