Mapping for the Urban Humanities: A Summer Institute
A summer intensive course on digital mapping for faculty.

Mapping for the Urban Humanities is an intensive workshop on digital mapping designed for humanities faculty and advanced graduate students at Columbia University and offered through the Center for Spatial Research at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation with support from the Office of the Dean of Humanities. In 2016 and 2017 the course was taught collaboratively by Dare Brawley, Leah Meisterlin, and Eric Glass. In 2018 the course will be taught by Michelle McSweeney and Buck Wanner.

The syllabus for the course is available via GitHub here.

This hands-on workshop is intended to broaden and transform the disciplinary locations within which data analysis takes place. This workshop introduces participating faculty to open-source mapping software, QGIS, to methods of data collection and creation, and to approaches and concepts in critical spatial analysis. With support from the course’s three instructors, participating faculty will incorporate newly-acquired spatial analysis skills into course assignments and syllabi. The ultimate aim of the summer intensive is to equip faculty with tools to transform their humanities courses into places where students learn spatial data analytical skills and apply them to humanistic questions. 

The course condenses topics from a semester long introductory GIS course into a two-week hands-on intensive and one-week practicum. Skills based tutorials draw on diverse datasets relevant to investigations in the urban humanities, including: CEISEN’s Gridded Population of the World, UN Population Division national population estimates, the National Historic Geographic Information System’s historic census records, historical rail lines from the University of Nebraska’s Digital History Project, Reference USA records for music industry businesses, American Community Survey demographic data, New York State Board of Education records of schools, and scanned historical maps from Columbia University’s map collection. Course tutorials and lectures have been developed concurrently and will expose faculty to critical approaches in GIS, introductory spatial analysis methods, and modes of data creation.

Structure and Rhythm

Over the course of the first two weeks, participants learn critical methods in digital mapping and data collection through the use of open-source software (QGIS). The course meets for 4.5 hours each day in an intensive workshop and lab format. The third week focuses on how to incorporate newly acquired skills into course assignments and syllabi and on bolstering relevant skills development, using the syllabi submitted with the application to the course as a starting point. During the third week participation is optional and is scheduled as individual skill and syllabus workshop sessions. 

Departments Represented in 2016

Anthropology, Architecture, Art History and Archaeology, Classics, Heyman Center for the Humanities, History, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Jewish Studies, Journalism, Language Resource Center, Latin American and Iberian Cultures, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies

The courses that faculty have workshopped during the course cut across a wide spectrum of topics including titles such as: "Bombay/Mumbai and its Urban Imaginaries," "Democratizing Architecture," "Reading the multilingual city: Linguistic landscapes and urban multilingualism," "The Greek city-state in world-history 1000 BCE-400 CE," "Geopolitics." 

Syllabi developed through the course are available below. This will continue to be updated as these courses are introduced into the curriculum.

Departments Represented in 2017

Architecture, Classics, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Economics, English and Comparative Literature, History, Real Estate Development, Urban Planning, Teachers College. 

Titles of courses and research projects that participants workshopped during the course included: "The Great Syrian Revolt of 1925: A History of Biocultural Diversity and International Politics in the Post-Ottoman Era," "Harlem Stories: Archives and Digital Tools and Our Wadleigh: The Complex Struggle for Educational Justice in Harlem," "Mapping Jewish Life in Eighteenth-Century Amsterdam," "Mapping Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," "Thessaloniki Down the Ages: a City and its Many Voices," "Architecture of Colonial Modernity," "Foreigners in the 15th – 18th Century European City."

Course Tutorials
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