Questions in Spatial Research
A half semester workshop course on approaches to spatial research for the urban humanities.
   
Description

Questions in Spatial Research will introduce key concepts required for work with geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial research in the urban humanities.

This is a "making & doing" workshop course and is designed to expand the disciplinary locations in which spatial data analysis takes place.

Through hands-on exercises and weekly assignments participants will develop basic fluency with open-source mapping software, QGIS, methods of data collection and creation, and approaches and concepts in critical spatial analysis and map design.

Questions in Spatial Research is a half semester, 1.5 credit course offered at GSAPP by the Center for Spatial Research and is open to students from across the Columbia University. It will be offered for the first time in Fall 2019. Faculty and doctoral candidates may also apply to participate on a non-credit basis. Enrollment is limited by permission of the instructor. Some students will take this course in conjunction with seminar courses offered in other departments. Faculty interested in pairing their course with Questions in Spatial Research should contact Dare Brawley (dare.brawley@columbia.edu) prior to the start of the semester. 

Anticipated Structure and Concepts

Potential modules in the course may include:

The Cartographic View:

  • Basic GIS concepts and techniques applied in QGIS
  • Working with cartographic projections

Making Spatial Datasets

  • Making spatial datasets through observation and sensing
  • Making spatial datasets through archival research

Making Public Work

  • Cartographic design principals
  • Producing public work through interactive maps on the web
Anticipated Learning Objectives

After completing the course participants will:

  • Develop robust familiarity with QGIS and its functions
  • Gain fluency with foundational GIS concepts (including how the GIS data model abstracts geographic phenomena)
  • Understand GIS spatial data types and the kinds of analysis that are possible with each
  • Create new spatial datasets from field observation and participatory sensing
  • Create new spatial datasets from archival sources
  • Transform archival sources into spatial datasets
  • Develop basic familiarity with html, css, and javascript and be able to make a public web-based map
  • Acquire fluency with visual design concepts central to cartographic representations
Sample Tutorials

Sample tutorials are included below, however the topics and datasets covered will change prior to the fall 2019 iteration of Questions in Spatial Research. A full and evolving list of CSR tutorials is available here

 
Data Publics and Public Data
Working prototypes, courtesy of Jia Zhang and Brian House.

Data Publics and Public Data

Thursday April 4, 6:30 PM
Ware Lounge, Avery Hall
Columbia University

Brian House and Jia Zhang in conversation with Laura Kurgan, Shannon Mattern, Bill Rankin, and Jer Thorp.

This event will feature new work by Mellon Associate Research Scholars Brian House & Jia Zhang underway as part of their fellowships with the Center for Spatial Research in the 2018-2019 academic year. Brian House (PhD Brown University) is developing a platform to collect geographic data through mobile devices using the distributed web. Jia Zhang (PhD MIT Media Lab) is building an interactive atlas that bridges between large public datasets and everyday experiences of urban space. The discussion of both projects will center around the politics of personal data and its relationship to the development of urban policy and the built environment. Their projects point to forms of artistic, academic, and activist practices that might intervene or offer new possibilities in this fraught landscape.

 

Brian House is an artist and a Mellon Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University's Center for Spatial Research. His work explores the interdependent rhythms of the body, technology, and the environment, and has been shown by the Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, Ars Electronica, Transmediale, ZKM, Beall Center, and Rhizome, among others. He has been a member of the New York Times Research and Development Lab, director of technology at the design studio Local Projects, and a resident at Eyebeam. He recently completed a PhD in Computer Music and Multimedia at Brown University, and his academic writing has been published by Autonomedia, Contemporary Music Review, and Journal of Sonic Studies.

Jia Zhang is a Mellon Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University's Center for Spatial Research. She experiments with communicating quantitative and qualitative data visually. Her research examines and utilizes technical processes and abstract visual forms found in data representation. At the CSR, Jia works on visualizations of public urban datasets and the U.S.Census. She is currently building projects that deal with public facing data of the urban environment and interactive tools that allow individuals to directly engage with urban information for their own well-being. Jia recently completed her PhD at MIT’s Media Lab.

Laura Kurgan is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, where she directs the Center for Spatial Research and the Visual Studies curriculum. She is the author of Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics (Zone Books, 2013). Her work explores the ethics and politics of digital mapping and its technologies; the art, science and visualization of big and small data; and design environments for public engagement with maps and data. In 2009, Kurgan was awarded a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship.

Shannon Mattern is a Professor of Anthropology at The New School for Social Research. Her writing and teaching focus on archives, libraries, and other media spaces; media infrastructures; spatial epistemologies; and mediated sensation and exhibition. She is the author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities, Deep Mapping the Media City, and Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media, all published by University of Minnesota Press. In addition to writing dozens of articles and book chapters, she also contributes a regular long-form column about urban data and mediated infrastructures to Places, a journal focusing on architecture, urbanism, and landscape, and she collaborates on public design and interactive projects and exhibitions. You can find her at wordsinspace.net.

Jer Thorp is an artist, writer and teacher living in New York City. He is best known for designing the algorithm to place the nearly 3,000 names on the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. Jer was the New York Times' first Data Artist in Residence, is a National Geographic Explorer, and in 2017 and 2018 served as the Innovator in Residence at the Library of Congress. Jer is one of the world's foremost data artists, and is a leading voice for the ethical use of big data. Jer’s data-inspired artwork has been shown around the world, including most recently in New York’s Times Square, at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, at the Ars Electronica Center in Austria, and at the National Seoul Museum in Korea. He is an adjunct Professor in New York University’s renowned Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), and is the Co-Founder of The Office for Creative Research. In 2015, Canadian Geographic named Jer one of Canada’s Greatest Explorers. Jer’s book 'Living in Data’ will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the spring of 2020.

Bill Rankin is a historian and cartographer. His mapping activity is focused on reimagining everyday urban and territorial geographies as complex landscapes of statistics, law, and history. His maps have appeared in publications and exhibitions throughout the US and Europe, including articles in Foreign Policy, Perspecta, Harvard Design Magazine, and National Geographic and shows at Harvard, Yale, Pratt, the Cartographic Bienalle in Lausanne, the Triennalle di Milano, and the Toronto Images Festival; his maps also traveled for several years with ICI'’s "Experimental Geographies" exhibit. His historical research is about the politics of cartography and navigation in the twentieth century. He teaches at Yale University, where he is an assistant professor of the history of science.

 

Free and open to the public. 

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Apply for Mapping for the Urban Humanities: A Summer Institute

The Center for Spatial Research, with the Office of the Dean of Humanities, invites Columbia University faculty and doctoral candidates to participate in Mapping for the Urban Humanities: A Summer Institute: May 28 – June 6, 2019. Applications are due by January 31, 2019.

Mapping for the Urban Humanities is a six day skills-building workshop in critical cartography, designed to expand the disciplinary locations within which spatial knowledge in the urban humanities is produced and interpreted. Workshop participants will be introduced to open-source mapping software, QGIS, to methods of data collection and creation, and to approaches and concepts in critical spatial analysis that they can incorporate into their research and teaching. Participation is free; space is limited. The workshop is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Eligibility: This course is open to full and part-time faculty, research scholars and doctoral candidates from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and Barnard College.

How to Apply: Interested faculty and doctoral candidates should apply by sending the following materials to info@c4sr.columbia.edu by January 31, 2019.

  • 1-2 page statement that describes your interest in taking the institute, and includes a description of the course or research topic you hope to workshop during the summer intensive.
  • CV

Structure of the workshop: The Summer 2019 session will be held from May 28 – June 3, from 10:00am – 5:30pm with a final roundtable project review on June 6 from 1pm – 4:30pm.

More information about the course, including materials from prior iterations of the institute, is available here.

If you have questions about your eligibility or about whether your course or research project is a good fit for the institute, please reach out to Dare Brawley (dare.brawley@columbia.edu) at the Center for Spatial Research.

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Spatial History and Historical GIS
This course introduces students to the emerging methodologies that combine geographic information systems (GIS) with historical thinking.
   
Description

This course introduces the emerging methodologies that combines geographic information systems (GIS) with traditional “historical thinking.” There are three goals for this course. First, students will learn basic technical skills in GIS used by spatial historians. Students are not required to have prior experience in GIS to enroll in this course, but basic computer literacy is essential. Second, through weekly readings, students will engage with scholarship/projects that use historical geographic information systems (HGIS) and with the broader spatial humanities. Students will be encouraged to consider the new topics/questions historians are investigating with HGIS and the new evidence HGIS provides to historiographical debates. The readings on HGIS research serve as starting points for class discussions on the strengths and limitations of this new methodology. Additional readings on HGIS methods provide examples of analytical tools, and students will be challenged to think of new methods that can aid in answering historiographical questions as well. Finally, students will undertake a small spatial history project. Through this research project, students will learn research and project management skills, which are increasingly necessary for historians in the digital age, while refining an intervention in the historiography.

Mapping Historical New York City
A collaboration to map immigration and neighborhood change in New York City during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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Mapping Historical New York, through web-based, interactive maps, reconstructs the demographic and structural shifts of Manhattan and Brooklyn between 1850 and 1920. During this period, the city grew and diversified through the arrival of large groups of immigrants. Furthermore, the city boundaries expanded in the late 1890s to include a major section of Long Island specifically Brooklyn and Queens.

Through a three year collaboration between the Center for Spatial Research and the Department of History, Historical New York City uses historical GIS and spatial history to develop new understanding of the magnitude of the changes that took place across this time.

The project team is digitizing maps of Manhattan and Brooklyn and integrating individual-level records from historical US Censuses to build a comprehensive web-based resource for researchers and students interested in New York City’s history. In addition to producing maps and analysis for the city as a whole, the project plans to develop detailed case studies designed to deepen engagement with the digitized historical maps and demographic datasets at the neighborhood level. The resulting maps, tools, and information will be accessible to the public.

In addition to the public-facing, interactive webmap, the project aims to train faculty and students in digital research and teaching methods. Courses on historical New York, immigration, urban history, and spatial history, offered in conjunction with project responsibilities, promote faculty and student involvement in the project’s design, development, and production.

Funding for this project is provided by the Robert D. L. Gardiner Foundation.

Project Team
Name Project Role
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Apply for Fall 2018 Student Positions

The Center for Spatial Research is seeking student assistants for the Fall 2018 semester.

Students will be responsible for data analysis, visualization, map design, and will support research on projects dealing with our current research focus: conflict urbanism. Students will work extensively with spatial data including mining and analyzing data, processing and collecting data, and/or visualizing data in compelling and innovative ways. Working in close collaboration with principal investigators, students will produce work for inclusion in papers, multi-media projects, and exhibitions.

Candidates must have experience with GIS and Adobe Creative Suite. In addition, please let us know if you have experience with any of the following tools: Processing, Python, D3, R, APIs, Microsoft Access, SQL, Stata/SPSS, HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

We are seeking candidates who have experience with computational tools but are also eager to acquire additional skills through the course of their work with us. CSR researchers will mentor successful candidates and match them with projects which help them build additional fluencies with computational methods.

Positions are 10-15 hours per week. Hours are negotiated on a per-student basis. All positions are $16/hour. Please note positions are only available for continuing Columbia University students.

Please send a letter of interest, CV, and relevant work examples to info@c4sr.columbia.edu

Applications due September 14, 2018, materials will be reviewed in the order there are received. 

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Mapping for Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities
This hybrid theory/practice course provides an introduction to critical mapping discourse and geographic information systems tools. Fall 2018.
   
Description

What role does cartography play in our relationship to space? How does technology make sense of places to which we have never been? Through what material practices are data produced, and how are they located? As a result, what cultural attitudes inhabit our maps, how do they (re)produce our environment, and how can they be contested?

This hybrid theory/practice course provides an introduction to critical mapping discourse and geographic information systems tools. Of particular interest to humanities students, it examines both historical and contemporary questions with reference to the technology of mapping. Additionally, through the use of open-source GIS software (QGIS), browser-based technologies (Mapbox, Mongo DB), and open data (OpenStreetMap), students will learn how to critically use mapping tools and geographic data for spatial analysis and representation. Each class has two parts as a result: in the first half of each meeting we will discuss weekly readings, while the second half serves as a flipped-classroom to address technical and conceptual issues arising from take-home GIS tutorials. The final weeks of the semester will be devoted to developing students' own critical cartographic research.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • critically read a map
  • investigate the cultural attitudes and technologies behind cartographic practices
  • use QGIS to analyze and present geographic information
  • build location aware dynamic maps for mobile devices
  • make intentional design decisions when creating maps

 

Fall 2018 Registration

Fridays 9 -11am 

408 Avery Hall 

3 points

Call number: 78446

Open to students within GSAS, GSAPP, Barnard and Columbia Colleges, and others by permission.

In Plain Sight
An immersive installation in the US Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
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In Plain Sight presents anomalies in population distribution seen in nighttime satellite imagery of Earth and census grid counts produced by governments worldwide — revealing places with bright lights and no people and places with people and no lights—thus, challenging our assumptions about geographies of belonging and exclusion.

The project was tasked with interrogating the relationship between citizenship and the built environment at the scale of the globe, where the primacy of the individual, the city, and even the nation drops away and is replaced by data: electricity, trade routes, migratory shifts, and the flow of capital, goods and people.

The installation is a collaboration between Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, and Robert Gerard Pietrusko with the Center for Spatial Research, and will be on view from May 26 through November 25, 2018. The installation is conceived and designed for Dimensions of Citizenship, the US Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The University of Chicago.

View the full project video here

Project Team
Name Project Role
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In Plain Sight at the 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture
Image still from In Plain Sight

In Plain Sight, a collaboration between Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, and Robert Gerard Pietrusko with the Center for Spatial Research, will open on May 26, 2018 in Venice, Italy.

The installation is conceived and designed for Dimensions of Citizenship, the US Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The University of Chicago. The installation will be on view through November 25.

In Plain Sight presents anomalies in population distribution seen in nighttime satellite imagery of Earth and census grid counts produced by governments worldwide — revealing places with bright lights and no people and places with people and no lights—thus, challenging our assumptions about geographies of belonging and exclusion.

Several events are planned during the opening weekend, May 24-27, featuring project collaborators Laura Kurgan, Elizabeth Diller, Robert Pietrusko. See the full schedule of events on the Dimensions of Citizenship website here.

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Apply for Summer 2018 Student Positions

The Center for Spatial Research is seeking student candidates for both full-time and part-time positions during Summer 2018.

Students will be responsible for data analysis, visualization, map design, and research on projects dealing with our current research focus: conflict urbanism. Students will work extensively with spatial data including mining and analyzing data, processing and collecting data, and/or visualizing data in compelling and innovative ways.  Working in close collaboration with principal investigators, students will produce work for inclusion in papers, multi-media projects, and exhibitions.

Candidates must have experience with GIS and Adobe Creative Suite. In addition, a working knowledge of some of the following tools is a plus: Processing, Python, D3, R, APIs, Microsoft Access, SQL, Stata/SPSS, HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

We are seeking candidates who have experience with computational tools but are also eager to acquire additional skills through the course of their internship. CSR researchers will mentor successful candidates and match them with projects which help them build additional fluencies with computational methods.

Full-time positions are 35 hours per week for up to twelve weeks. Part-time work will be negotiated by student/project. All positions are $15/hour. Please note, positions are only available for continuing students at Columbia University. Positions open to both graduate and undergraduate students. 

Please send a letter of interest, CV, and relevant work examples to info@c4sr.columbia.edu with the subject "Application: Summer 2018 Student Positions". 

Applications will be reviewed in the order there are received. 

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