Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Z factor of time

Left image: Stonehenge, Salisbury Plains, England.
Right image: Chruchill statue, outside Parliament House, London.

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I??
Sydney: S: 34º 0' E: 151º 0'

Historical GIS

The recognition of the entwinement of the disciplines of history and geography and the potential to link the study of history and geography has been given considerable impetus in recent years by the emergence of amazing enabling technology such as Geographical information Systems. In fact, rarely does a history documentary on TV go by without the use of spatial technology (hence geographical capacities) to demonstrate and visualise historical themes and events. The use of GIS in history is based on the premise that history is determined by space and place over time.

Geography is the study of spatial differentiation and history the study of temporal differentiation, so “if you can read it, why not visualise it via mapping it!!”

GIS provides the tools to combine history and geography to study patterns of change over space and time. Again, as Iain Stewart showed in his series,the world of the geologist, historian, geographer and anthropologist are all entwined and almost impossible to separate. As a result, GIS is becoming the meeting ground for these disciplines blurring the divisions even more.

As mentioned in a previous posting, geography is relevant to the teaching of history in the classroom. Recently there have been attempts to inject a sense of spatial perception into history teaching. History courses have always used maps to demonstrate events and concepts. What GIS can do is involve students in creating their own unique and original maps of an historical event or time. Such spatial literacy development and student involvement in the creation of spatial representations of historical events can only make history a more practical and relevant subject to students. The use of such high level spatial technology as GIS opens many opportunities to develop creative and innovative problems for students to solve via the development of spatial representations in the form of data linked maps or images.

The wonderful technology of GIS now allows the amateur ICT user to use a high level technological tool to map both simple and complex spatial representations and relationships.

Historical GIS is proving to be a valuable research method, a framework for digital archives and a means to bringing a geographical/spatial sensibility to the view of history. Historical data has the Z factor of time and GIS adds the x and y factor of place. GIS digitally links locations and their attributes (attached information) so that they can be displayed in maps and analyzed, by their geographical characteristics, such as location, distance, proximity, density and dispersal. GIS representation involves identifying the social, economic and physical characteristics of a place at a particular time in history.

In practical terms the use of GIS by history students can involve any of the following:

*Analyzing change in space over time.

*Attaching sources/data/images to location.

*Tracking movement over space.

* Searching databases over space.

Here are some more interesting links on Historical GIS





As Amy Hillier, University of Pennsylvania says in her paper “Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS are Changing Historical Scholarship”

“In the last decade, historical GIS has emerged as a promising new methodology for studying the past. Historical GIS is the use of geographic information systems software and allied geospatial methods for historical research and teaching. We now have the opportunity to use an array of tools to visualize historical information in a geographical context.”

1 comment:

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