Maps and Humanities

It should not be a surprise that data describing humanity depends heavily on the dimensions of time and space. How else can data representing human interaction, error, rectification, discovery, or adventure exist without these dimensions? The human construct of reality stands on concepts that give bounds to infinity. Time and space afford humans the concepts of change that describe their existence in this construct. The human ability to communicate is born of these concepts. Humanity, and perhaps all biologic life, without time and space or without the concepts of change and difference is not well described. It is significant that humans live on planet Earth in the Milky Way galaxy, a distinction one might take for granted, and one that may change with time.

The evolution of technology and the maturing of data in the Internet of Things exacerbated this natural need for spatiotemporal description to properly chronicle the story of humanity. Analytics on spatiotemporal data can produce new understanding from old knowledge and give predictions of what will happen tomorrow. It gives insight to the how and why of a history of interaction and behavior, and the change those wrought, for better or worse.

Data scientists in the humanities and beyond realize the common need for spatiotemporal dimensions. Global consortia are forming to develop standardized, uniform ways of making responsible and interoperable spatiotemporal assertions and connections. As much as it is for the data and for science, it is for the human. User interfaces are crafted to take in this standardized format so that data can move between pointed, analytical, and human-readable visualizations connecting humans, time, and space. Here are one thousand examples of such ventures:

What started the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Center for Digital Humanities at Saint Louis University’s (OCDH) specific involvement in standardized geospatial assertions is Lived Religion in the Digital Age. This project attempts to describe the amorphous effects religion has on a region, and vice-versa. One data capture method is accepting a testimonial from a human describing religion, or lack of religion, during an experience or event. “I was at a place at this time, witnessed interactions with people and/or objects and have this conclusion about how religion shaped or was shaped by what was witnessed.” A data challenge to describe People, Places, Things, Events and their abundant, abstract, loose connections. Once the work began and data structures were in place, a question still loomed: how do I reliably assert known Earth coordinates onto Person, Place, Thing or Event data?

If you are a human interested in better understanding humans as it pertains to time and space, then you may be interested in the role OCDH is playing. We plan to release a series of blogs that will demonstrate our entanglement in geospatial data science. It will expose our experience with the geospatial data standards we have encountered and are attempting to enhance. There are avenues that intersect geospatial assertions and interoperable linked open usable data. We would like to give you the coordinates.

Published on June 22, 2020 by Bryan Haberberger