The Spatial Humanities

The digital humanities is the broad knowledge area created by the intersection computer science and the humanities. Digital humanities includes everything from the use of motion capture to record and study dance to cultural analytics (data mining large cultural data sets). The field uses digital media in combination with the methods of old school humanities like art, archeology, cultural studies, history, linguistics, literature, music, and philosophy with computational tools for analysis, data mining, visualization, and statistics.

The subset of the digital humanities focusing on the use of geospatial technologies is the spatial humanities. In “The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship” the authors state:

“Geographic information systems (GIS) have spurred a renewed interest in the influence of geographical space on human behavior and cultural development. Ideally GIS enables humanities scholars to discover relationships of memory, artifact, and experience that exist in a particular place and across time. Although successfully used by other disciplines, efforts by humanists to apply GIS and the spatial analytic method in their studies have been limited and halting. The spatial humanities aims to re-orient—and perhaps revolutionize—humanities scholarship by critically engaging the technology and specifically directing it to the subject matter of the humanities. To this end, the contributors explore the potential of spatial methods such as text-based geographical analysis, multimedia GIS, animated maps, deep contingency, deep mapping, and the geo-spatial semantic web.”

The spatial humanities can be as simple as an animated history of place:

To Rome Reborn an interactive 3D model of the city of Rome circa 320 A.D. built by Past Perfect Productions and licensed by Past4Ward, LLC. The company plans to market this and other historical products to K-12 school students featuring game play similar to a Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) titles as well as other virtual immersion techniques tailored to curriculum standards in order to supplement text books and class discussion.


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