The River Rises

The readings for this week focused on the question of mapping, including its use as a pedagogical and analytical tool. Considering the visual nature of Digital Humanities, this is unsurprising, and I know that for my own research, mapping provides extremely important context for the progression of particular narratives and the comprehension of different events. When used in conjunction with text or other visualizations, the benefits of mapping from a pedagogical standpoint are fairly obvious: they provide a frame of referenced for the student and, when tracking the spread of ideas or geopolitical changes, it can help ground a textual understanding of the subject material.
Diana Sinton’s article on mapping includes several examples, often tracking individual travels. I have used mapping in my own research in the past, mapping trench systems during a certain period during the Battle of Verdun in 1916, where I tracked the movements of the 153e Regiment d’Infanterie over the course of three days of combat operations. In my current research, mapping would provide an excellent window in displaying the geographic distribution of rubber plantations, and a means of establishing patterns for strikes, protests, and other forms of civil disobedience that wracked the industry during the 1920s and 1930s.
This article focuses on other aspects of mapping as a pedagogical tool, specifically looking at maps as a primary source. Tracking the changes in mapping procedures over the lifespan of the French Empire, for example, could show how entrenched certain ideologies became, while others were exchanged or disappeared entirely. This of course opens up the imperial construction of maps as a form of power over the colonized subjects.
The Basic Mapping in the Digital Humanities article expands on other examples, including some that we viewed in class. It provides a list of programs and their most effective functions. Of these, geo-coding seems to be the most applicable for my purposes, though I am interested to see other options moving forward.
One example that was particularly illuminating was the Mapping Emancipation site, which visualizes a variety of events regarding the actions by and towards African American slaves during the Civil War. As a layering tool, it was quite instructive, and provided very interesting patterns to analyze. The preponderance of events occurring in the contested regions of Virginia and the Mississippi River make sense within the context of the war itself, though I was surprised to see comparatively few events occur in Georgia.

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