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Mapping for the Urban Humanities: A Summer Institute

A summer intensive course on digital mapping for faculty.
Faculty participants collaboratively developing mapping-based assignments during the Summer 2016 Mapping for the Urban Humanities course.
1902 map of "the Borough of the Bronx, City of New York, lying easterly of the Bronx River."
Participants discussing their first mapping assignments during the Summer 2017 Mapping for the Urban Humanities course.
Gridded Population of the World, 2010.
Presentations of final group projects, which developed either course assignments or research projects.

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. Participation is free; space is limited. The workshop is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This hands-on workshop is intended to broaden and transform the disciplinary locations within which data analysis takes place. This course will introduce participants to open-source mapping software, QGIS, to methods of data collection and creation, and to approaches and concepts in critical spatial analysis. Throughout the week we will be joined by external faculty for workshops and seminars around specific examples of projects and courses that apply spatial data analytic tools to address humanistic questions. The course condenses major topics from a semester long introductory GIS course into a six-day hands-on intensive with two days of structured practicum. Skills based tutorials draw on diverse datasets relevant to investigations in the urban humanities. With support from the course’s three instructors, participating faculty will incorporate newly-acquired spatial analysis skills into course assignments and syllabi as well as research plans.

Structure and Rhythm

The Summer 2019 session will be held (on weekdays) between May 28 – June 3, from 10:00am – 5:30pm with a final roundtable project review on June 6 from 1pm – 4:30pm. Each day will be divided into roughly three parts: skills-based tutorials where participants will learn critical methods in digital mapping and data collection through the use of open-source software (QGIS), workshops on the course or project that participants applied to the course with, and seminar or workshop sessions focused on research or teaching practices related to the urban humanities. On June 4 & 5 participants will have the opportunity to work in a supported lab environment and meet one on one with course instructors (however attendance is not required on these days).

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."

Departments Represented in 2018

Anthropology, Architecture, English and Comparative Literature, History, Italian, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Teachers College.  Titles of courses and research projects that participants workshopped during the course included: "The Afterlife of Utopia: Urban Renewal in Germany’s Model Socialist City," "Reading in the Multilingual City," "Between Empire and Nation: Taiwanese Settler-Migrants and the Making of Japanese Empire in South China and Southeast Asia," "Mapping Historical New York City," "The Revolt of the ‘Rust Belt’: The Communal Roots of Anti- Systemic Politics in the US and the UK," "History through Italian Street Names: Thinkers, Rulers, Wars, and Assassinations."