Intro to GIS

I’ve read and reread Yuan’s chapter “Mapping Text” and studied the figures – and yet it remains so abstract to me.  I hope that our hands-on activity in class will give me the knowledge I need to understand what exactly GIS is!

In reading, I realized that my primary definitions of map, text, value, and place cannot be transferred to the same words within the article; these words have such a different (broader yet more specific?) meaning within the field of DH.  Text is more than a literary work (duh, Katie); and map, both a verb and a noun, is not just an indicator of county lines in the state of Tennessee – in fact, a map could just be dots and vectors, no need to indicate where I-440 and I-65 intersect.  (I know TN was nowhere mentioned in the article; I’m just illustrating my narrow idea of maps before reading the article).  Place is not the same as a location … but a location becomes a place when associated with more than just geographic positioning (121)?  Values are any key words or significant information that the mapper (cartographer?) wants recorded.  Maybe?

With this vague understanding of GIS, the applications to my teaching might be “simplistic” and uninteresting (118) – but I still think it would work!  I think GIS could be very helpful in organizing narratives with an abundance of and interconnectedness between characters, such as in Les Faux-monnayeurs by Gide, La Princesse de Clèves by Mme de la Fayette, and La Comédie humaine byHuHHHh Blazac.  One could even use GIS to perhaps trace the effects of genetics within the Rougon-Macquart novels by Zola.  Among early French language learners, Jules Verne’s Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours would be fun both to read and then to use GIS to track the destinations.

My research too could only benefit from GIS.  I think I am going to be researching applications of Standards within higher education classrooms – so I could use mapping to see which SES backgrounds or which geographic regions incorporate which Standards…  or more broadly, what factors influence a department’s or teacher’s Standards within the classroom, and then which Standards are emphasized and which are neglected …  I’m not too sure right now, but I know that there’s a definite application!

In conclusion, I appreciated Yuan’s open and multiple acknowledgements of the gaps and shortcomings of GIS in its current state.  And yet, Yuan confidently points to the “next step”, to the future and the possibilities that could be realized with more research and more practice.  Although we’re not developing tools or writing programs (speaking for myself here), I believe our DH class is nonetheless contributing to the field by promoting the study of GIS.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent observations.  Yes, the article is a bit abstract, but I think that this is the point.  Yuan wants us to see that “text” and “map” are interchangeable.  In that they are interchangeable, they can be analyzed using the same types of digital tools.  We already presupposed that, but Yuan sets out to prove it theoretically.