Serving Up GeoServer

First, what does GeoServer do? GeoServer is a tool that links geospatial data with user interfaces. The analogy of Geoserver as a bartender that serves and mixes the things that the user has stored on the shelves of the bar is an accurate depiction of how the server grabs georeferenced images and imports them into exhibits like Neatline. However, just as those who have never mixed drinks before might find it hard to achieve a good blend, those who do not have background in computers may find GeoServer an inaccessible tool. Below is a graphic that explains more and is hyperlinked to detailed instructions on using GeoServer:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 11.16.51 PM

Second, how do you use GeoServer? A vector file converted to a GeoTIFF can be uploaded to the online server and then accessed through the server and inserted as a layer into a mapping application. The benefit of this process is that vector files can be converted into vector data or styled maps.

Similar to Jeff McClurken who suggests in his article about Omeka that using the tool may be overkill for simple projects, GeoServer is a technology-heavy tool that might not be appropriate for all projects. However, for projects that require a large amount of data like the thick mapping in HyperCities or projects that require more styling, GeoServer may be a good option.

In conclusion, for those who are adept at computers or are certain that their project would benefit from GeoServer, enjoy the full selection at the bar. For those who are less certain, however, perhaps, instead of a bartender that can only serve a few select drinks if properly asked, it would be better to have a website that functioned as a butler and assisted the user more in achieving the goals of their project.

Theory of the Project

When looking at a map, the following questions arise: What subjectivity is the author of the map bringing to the picture? What (or who) is included or excluded from the map? How can you make a map that is totally inclusive? In my project, Memory Box, I attempt to create a map that highlights how individuals personalize the space around them with memories or traditions by deconstructing the components of a mental map and presenting just the subjective memories on which these maps are based. Through this project, I aim to engage with theory about inclusive methods of map-making and to place my project among other mental mapping projects.

In this literature review, I will first explain the inherent subjectivity of maps, and, second, discuss how personal experiences impact locative thinking with a method called mental mapping. Third, I will explore how to imbue digital maps with more personal connections and, fourth, detail how my project, Memory Box, combines elements of mental mapping and presents it on a digital platform.

Subjective Maps in a Digital and Non-digital Age

Looking at the world from Google Earth is a seemingly objective view of reality; however, as argued by Jason Farman in “Mapping the Digital Empire: Google Earth and the Process of Postmodern Cartography,” Google must skew the picture of the earth using a projection, such as the Western-centric Mercator projection, and introduce a level of subjectivity into the landscape (878). Thus, even in the digital age where many users have access to and partial authorship of maps, the “democratization” of maps is not complete and, instead, digital maps have become an empire dominated by Google and those with access to the internet (871). Thus, although Farman writes that digital media users can “define” and “inhabit” space as “embodied interactors,” digital maps contain as much subjectivity and are as exclusive as the drawn maps that were their predecessors (885). The innate subjectivity of all maps is reiterated by many scholars, such as sustainability researcher, Katriini Soini, who argues that maps are a way for humans to conceptualize and present their view of the world. She writes, “Mapping is a very old method of constructing and conceptualizing the world. Humans have prepared maps for various purposes for thousands of years. In the earlier times, maps were regarded as abstractions of the world or reality, but, nowadays, they are viewed as means of communication and intermediating values and power” (237). Thus, even in an era where gathering and displaying the information on maps has been improved by technology, the inherent subjectivity of maps pervades.

Showing and Studying Subjectivity Through Mental Maps

Understanding that maps are not a complete representation of the truth leads to an examination of how to convey the spots on a map that are ambiguous or subjective and how to assess the impacts of subjective mapping. For example, in the smell maps of Kate McLean, a professor of Information Experience Design, uncertainty is conveyed through rings of circles that are essentially statistical confidence intervals centered on the true location of a smell. In addition to ambiguity, I think that showing the subjectivity of maps is important, especially since it is a part of all maps. One of the more interesting ways of showing subjectivity is through mental mapping, which is a methodology that seeks to understand how individuals conceptualize and interact with the space they inhabit.

The term mental mapping encompasses a variety of methods including hand-drawn drawings of places and habitual pathways, maps with color coding or symbols inserted onto them in order to convey an individual’s experience or emotions about a place, and even concept maps that helps to organize information and assist with learning. As defined by cultural geographer, J.J. Gieseking, mental mapping is, “A lens into the way people produce and experience space, forms of spatial intelligence, and dynamics of human–environment relations ranging from the minute experiences of everyday life to larger structural oppressions (Gieseking 712). In “Exploring the human dimensions of multifunctional landscapes through mapping and map-making,” Soini discusses how mental mapping is used in various fields, such as humanistic and cultural geography and behavioralism. In these fields, researchers analyze maps in order to see how people organize geographic information in their minds, prioritize certain locations because of familiarity or attachment to those places, link places to the emotions they arouse, and derive the social order of a location and their place within that order. The focus of this article is primarily how mental maps are used to conduct research about the social and psychological experiences of humans.

In her article, “Where We Go From Here: The Mental Sketch Mapping Method and Its Analytic Components,” Jack Jen Gieseking, analyzes the mental maps of the alumnae of an all girls school using the steps laid out in the seminal work on mental mapping, Image of a City, which are as follows: (1) asking what first came to mind in terms of the image of the space; (2) requesting that an individual draw a map of the space; and (3) asking for his or her detailed movements on an average day (715). She then analyzes the resulting maps by comparing metrics of the three components: Mechanics of Method, which is how accurately does the individual draw reality; Drawing Elements, which includes the nodes, edges and landmarks the drawers inserts; Narratives of Place, how to the drawn elements contribute the authors’ self of sense and sense of the place; and Personal, which is a category focused on the most personal experience of the individual (716). The focus of this study was to give structure to how individual mental maps are interpreted and compared, and to provide a blueprint for analysis in other research.

Mental Maps and Social Media

Mental maps show how people’s brains connect things, places, and memories in a geographic way and how locations contain meaning, but translating mental maps onto a digital format is difficult, especially given that platforms for digital maps (such as Google Maps) lack details about the ordinary regions that individuals primarily inhabit. To reiterate Farman’s argument, not only are maps, including Google Earth, subjective, they are also exclusive in terms of who has access to making them and what areas are shown in detail on the map. For example, StreetView and other details are provided for Davidson College, but not for Chennai, one of the major cities in India–this not only reveals that Google priorities North Carolina over Tamil Nadu, but also it limits where geographical information can be inserted. Not only are digital maps incomplete in terms of what locations are included, but also geosocial media is limited in what places can be shared.

According to Mark Sample, a professor of digital studies, location in and of itself is not interesting, but geosocial media can be used to imbue locations with meaning. He writes, “Maps convey a limited range of geographic experiences: distance, elevation, vegetation, rivers, and buildings. But maps fail to convey the meaning of these geographic elements, how they impact both the broad history of a place and the daily life of the people who live there” (Sample 73). While the aforementioned mental mapping projects are one method of imbuing the meaning that Sample argues maps lack, his article focuses on how geosocial media is also a tool for giving places meaning in a digital world. Similarly, in her article “Pinterest for Public History,” Michelle Morvac, a professor of history, encourages historical societies to use a form of geosocial media, Pinterest, as a tool to enrich and publicize exhibits. In a similar vein, UNESCO World Heritage Sites uses Pinterest to create maps of Heritage sites throughout the world, including the UK, France, and Italy. Using the popular social media, Pinterest, historical societies and individuals can include geographic information in their posts, but, as Sample argues, the locational information that can be included on most geoscial media is mainstream and not important. In his article “Location is Not Compelling (Until it is Haunted),” Sample argues that social media only allows users to mark certain places that use geosocial media as advertisement instead of the nether regions that are off grid but more a part of our daily lives. This is also the limitation of Pinterest Maps, which only allows users to mark well-known places, such as restaurants, instead of areas that may be of more interest. For example, in this Pinterest Map of Davidson, the restaurant Toast and coffee shop Summit Coffee could be pinned because they are listed on Foursquare, but specific buildings on campus cannot that are the stage of campus activity cannot be pinned. In order to make spaces more meaningful, geosocial media should be used to mark the nether places, such as sidewalks or parking lots that make up the majority of our day instead of using it to mark the typical locations of bars or restaurants. This provides a more meaningful map as well as one that is more inclusive.

Memory Box

For my project, I will gather specific locational memories from current Davidson students and alumnae and create an online mapping exhibit featuring these memories. This project takes the process of mental mapping and deconstructs it. Instead of letting users show the relative importance of certain areas by including these places on the map or drawing them larger than other places or before other locations as in Gieseking and Soini’s projects, I am condensing each individual’s contribution to the map to only a quote or memory about a place on Davidson College’s campus. Soini argues that how people feel about places is a critical component of mental maps; however, she also argues that mental, or cognitive, maps show “relationships between these concepts” and “represent links between ideas” (227; 232). Instead of tracing a daily pathway like most mental maps, my project draws exclusively on the emotional side of mapping. Thus, my map does not have the links between multiple locations that create a holistic depiction of an individual’s understanding of a place as with mental mapping, but rather, similar to the geosocial media as mentioned by Sample or represented by Pinterest, my maps focus on specific locations and memories. However, unlike the limiting social media, I will include locations, such as second floor library carrels or the tree in the middle of Patterson Court, that are off-grid yet comprise important memories for students. By expanding the scope of map layout, and also by including a wide range of student input, I will create a format for a more inclusive map that creates a “truer” picture of Davidson College. While my methodology aims to extract the what places have most meaning for people, I may find, like Gieseking, that many people included places that lack deeper personal meaning, but may have some cultural or social meaning. For example, in her study, people included the off-campus stables on their map even though they had never visited (172). Similarly, people at Davidson College may include universal memories, such as studying in the library or union. According to Gieseking, the outcome and usefulness of research using mental maps is to inform policy makers about the relationships people have with the elements of a physical place, which can lead to better planning for areas or reveal spatial segregation and inequalities (713). The final outcome of my project may to be to critical think about the changes around campus and how the smaller, out-of-the-way locations on campus contribute to student’s overall experience.


Farman, Jason. “Mapping the Digital Empire: Google Earth and the Process of Postmodern Cartography.” New Media and Society (2010): 869-888. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

Gieseking, J.J. “Where We Go From Here: The Spatial Mental Mapping Method and Its Analytic Components for Social Science Data Gathering.” Qualitative Inquiry (2013): 712-724. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

Moravec, Michelle. “Pinterest for Public History.” The Mid-AtlanticRegional Center for the Humanities. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

Sample, Mark. “Location is Not Compelling (Until it is Haunted).” Mobile Stories: Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies. New York: Routledge, 2014. 68-78. Web. 20 Nov.  2014.

Soini, Katriina. “Exploring human dimensions of multifunctional landscapes through mapping       and map-making.” Landscape and Urban Planning (2001): 225–239. Web. 20 Nov.  2014.


Literature Review

Literature Review

The purpose of this project is to develop a digitized environmental history of Davidson College. This project expands on a senior environmental capstone project that combines aerial photography, remotely sensed data, historical maps, and oral histories to map environmental changes throughout Davidson College’s history. The previous project created a series of maps using ArcMap 10.1 united with a rich historical narrative and timeline to analyze Davidson College’s environment history. While the capstone is comprehensive, its presentation as a manuscript is not sufficient for presenting various maps, timelines, narratives, and images as a cohesive unit. By presenting the above material as a digital Neatline exhibit, this project allows for interactivity and inclusivity throughout the web. Many authors have demonstrated the importance of developing environmental histories, the significance of the college campus in an environmental history context, and the importance of mapping; however, only recently has digital mapping emerged as a reputable discipline. As times have progressed into a digital age, the ways in which authors address and present environmental history problems should continuously develop.

The discipline of environmental history is well recognized and accepted as an area of study. Noted environmentalists such as Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson promoted a moral and political agenda towards the environment, establishing a base for future environmental scholarship. More recently, Donald Hughes (2006) defined environmental history as “history that seeks understanding of human beings as they have lived, worked and thought in relationship to the rest of nature through the changes brought by time”(Hughes, 2006). Although the discipline has evolved to include “ecohistories”, “historical geographies” and “ethnographies of landscape”, environmental historians today agree that the environmental history of a place should be examined in conversation with anthropogenic developments.

Only recently have the college town and campus emerged as focuses for scholarship and, even more recently, as a focus for environmental history studies. The importance of the college campus as a significant entity emerged when Gaines (1991) described the college campus as a work of art. His book was one of the first to stray away from the valuations of merit and scholarship, and ranks colleges based on urban space, architectural quality, landscape, and overall appeal. Moreover, authors such as Gumprecht (2007) have examined the historical environmental and social importance of the college campus. Gumprecht (2007) highlighted the needed balance between aesthetics, academics, and development in a particular college’s history, and provided a useful case study that situated the college campus in an environmental history context. Gumprecht’s work highlights the importance of the physical campus as a symbol central to the identity of the college, town, and even state.

Environmental historians focus on various sub disciplines, including geography, when reconstructing historical narratives. In many cases historical geography and the theories of several dimensions of space, provide substance to environmental history narratives. Additionally, authors have adopted the idea of social space or constructed space as a way of critically understanding the surrounding physical environment. The idea of constructed space originated in Lefebvre’s (1991) work The production of space, where he presented different levels of space from abstract space, to natural space, to a more complex social space. Without getting lost in philosophical jargon, it is important to note the significance of Lefebvre’s argument. Social space as a social product gives subjectivity to geography. Lefebvre addressed the argument that space is natural and socially constructed, which highlighted the idea that maps are never completely objective. Lefebvre’s work also highlights the uniqueness of individual spaces, such as Davidson College, with histories that are formed by a combination of physical and social interactions.

Expanding on Lefebvre’s call for understanding socially constructed and physical spaces, existing literature demonstrates the importance of mapping as a form of scholarship. In two of his books chapters, Monmonier (1993) demonstrates the importance of cartographic symbols as a form of analysis. He argues that maps are a “scaled down version of reality”; therefore, various symbols and scales demonstrate different arguments of the cartographer. While Monmonier examines specific symbols and scale levels, his text demonstrates the overall subjectivity of mapping and the importance of the cartographer’s decision making in constructing a narrative. Monmonier demonstrates how maps can be used to create certain arguments of spaces, and are useful when examining human-environment interactions. Moretti (2005) applies the importance of mapping to literary history and argues that mapping literature allows for a different level of understanding about the text. For example, he discovers a circular pattern of geography when he maps out Mary Mitfords, Our Village, and suggests that “when you map out the book, everything changes” (37). Although Moretti’s (2005) arguments examine literature, his concepts can be applied to historical narratives. When one maps out the history of a place, the past may be seen in a different light.

Conversations surrounding the physical and social construction of space have intrigued scholars, but these arguments were not accessible to the public until digital studies emerged as a reputable discipline. In her article, Fitzpatrick (2012) defines digital humanities as ““a nexus of fields within which scholars use computing technologies to investigate the kinds of questions that are traditional to the humanities, or, as is more true of my own work, ask traditional kinds of humanities-oriented questions about computing technologies.” Adopting Fitzpatrick’s first definition, this project attempts to transform a humanities study into an interactive digital exhibit. Expanding on Fitzpatrick call for the essentiality of digital studies, digital studies allow for public consumption of scholarly work.

Other authors address the importance of digitizing maps and argue that digital projects allow for public availability, and for varying levels of argument nonexistent in paper maps. In their book, Hypercities: thick mapping in the digital humanities, Presner et al (2014) develop the term “thick mapping” to describe the processes of “collecting, aggregating, and visualizing ever more layers of geographic or place specific data” (Presner et. al 17). Thick mapping, as Presner et al (2014) define it, can be easily achieved digitally. In his article, Long (2013) argues that digital maps such as google maps can return many elements to the map, including social, political, economic, climatological, biologic, and many other elements.” Although my project does not use google maps, Long highlights the general interactive nature of digital maps, which allows for a combination of spatial and non-spatial data. Additionally, Long (2013) addresses the importance of layers in digital maps as they allow for the “mashing up of non-spatial data on digital mapping interfaces in order to bring together multiple pieces of situated knowledge about and to get diverse perspectives on a particular space” (Long). By combining the arguments presented by Presner et al. (2012) and Long (2013), this project attempts to digitally combine spatial and non-spatial data of Davidson College’s rich environmental history.

The last requirement of this project is that it be interactive. In his interview with the Onion, Douglas Adams highlights the importance of interactivity of digital humanities and argues “putting in the extra element of interactivity should just add to the possibilities” of any text. Charles Cumming demonstrates the usefulness of interactivity in his digital novel, 21 steps ( In this interactive story, the reader follows the characters on a geographical journey that combines spatial and non-spatial data that connects the reader to the story world.

Considering the importance of interactivity, this project employs the Neatline plugin for Omeka to create an interactive historical archive complete with a narrative, archived photos and ArcMap maps. Ramsey and Rockwell (2012) present the argument that digital tools and the act of digital construction are scholarship themselves, regardless of the thing that is being presented. In conversation with Ramsey and Rockwell (2012), it is important to select the correct tool when developing a digital project. Nowviskie demonstrates the usefulness of Neatline by arguing “It’s a geotemporal exhibit-builder that allows you to create beautiful, complex maps, image annotations, and narrative sequences from collections of documents and artifacts, and to connect your maps and narratives with timelines that are more-than-usually sensitive to ambiguity and nuance” (Nowviskie). As Nowviskie demonstrates, Neatline is capable of combining various forms of media into a unified exhibit – a requirement of my final project. David Mclure, one of the builders of Neatline, declares Neatline is intended for “scholars who want to use maps and timelines to tell stories and make arguments about their subject” ( In the same article, Andrew Staffer values how “Neatline will allow [him] to layer historical maps”, and is impressed by the “power of Neatline as a framework for integrating spatial analysis into humanities scholarship.”. Considering these critiques and the requirements of my project, Neatline proved to be an appropriate tool for presentation.

Existing literature demonstrates the importance of constructing environmental histories, the usefulness of mapping as a means for presenting humanities research, and the need for digitizing projects using tools such as Neatline to create interactive and comprehensive exhibits. From Lefebvre’s theory of constructed space to Staffers comments on Neatline, this project adapts various previous frameworks to create a comprehensive environmental history of Davidson College.



Fitzpatrick, K. (2012). The humanities, done digitally. In M. K. Gold (Ed.), Debates in the digital humanities (). Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Gaines, T. A. (1991). The campus as a work of art. New York: Praeger.

Gumprecht, B. (2007). The campus as a public space in the american college town. Journal of Historical Geography, 33(1), 72-103.

Hughes, J. D. (2006). What is environmental history?. Cambridge: Polity.

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space. Oxford, OX, UK; Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.

Long, Seth (2013) Digital maps and social data (

Monmonier, M. S. (1993). Mapping it out : Expository cartography for the humanities and social sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Moretti, F. (2005). Graphs, maps, trees : Abstract models for a literary history. London; New York: Verso.

Nowviskie, Bethanie (2014) Neatline and visualization as interpretation( )

Presner, Todd Samuel,, Shepard, David,,Kawano, Yoh,,. (2014). HyperCities : Thick mapping in the digital humanities

RAMSAY, S., & ROCKWELL, G. (2012). Developing things: Notes toward an epistemology of building in the digital humanities. In M. K. Gold (Ed.), Debates in the digital humanities (). Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Seal, Rob. (2012). Neatline Helps Map New World of Digital Humanities Scholarship. (


Final Project Plan



Week of November 10th

Create survey
Find resources for historical data
Explore formatting on Omeka

Week of November 17th

Send Survey
Gather corresponding resources
Finalize Formatting on Omeka

Week of November 24th

Troubleshooting Omeka
Investigate historical maps
Add layers of maps to Omeka

Week of December 1st

Combine data and maps
Publish all to Omeka
Add finishing touches to website

In my original proposal, I planned on creating an interactive platform where users could enter their own memories of the places at Davidson College. For this interface, the ideal tool would be an Andriod or iPhone app; however, I do no think that making a complex app is a feasible goal for my project. Instead, I am switching the design of project to be more research-based as opposed to user-dependent. For the first few weeks of my project, I will be collecting data on individual memories of places around Davidson campus by sending out a survey to all students and looking through the archives for old quotes or descriptions. Additionally, I will use this time to explore the design elements of Neatline to see what is the best way to present the information and whether a more interactive design is possible. Neatline specializes at presenting historical data so I have decided to capitalize on this capability, and include more historical maps of Davidson in my project and take advantage of this as a way to improve my geo-referencing skills. In general, I will need to build in more time for troubleshooting the problems that arise as I research and build the website.

Mapping Davidson's past

Last Sunday, I spoke at the Davidson Historical Society on using digital maps to better understand Davidson’s past.  I had come in with a fairly basic map I created using QGis (for the background layers) and Neatline (for the vector and polygon overlays, and which I’d associated information for Historypin tours of Davidson’s libraries over time as well as Main Street from the 1860s to the 1980s.

I’ve since split the individual exhibit into two separate ones: Mapping Davidson’s Past, which focuses on changes in physical space to the town of Davidson and the college over time, and Touring Davidson’s Past, which aggregates Historypin tours.

I am using  this talk as a jumping off point for the final project for this class, and as the first stage in what I’m tentatively calling the “Spatial Davidson Project.”  In the long term, this project will map changes in the town of Davidson and the College from the early 19th century to the present, provide access to georectified historical maps of the town and college and also host virtual tours.

For the purposes of this class, I’ll be working to digitize and georectify some of the the maps held by the Davidson archives, and use the Neatline timeline function to create a cohesive timeline of different representations of Davidson space.  The first map I’ve uploaded is live here.  After that, I’ll be able to begin to create shapefiles of the buildings represented on each map.    These will be useful in constructing a more cohesive representation of the construction, destruction and new construction of buildings in town and on campus.

Like Lily, I will be opening up this site for comment, and hope to solicit thoughts of long-time Davidson faculty, staff and community members, since (as we’ve learned) maps don’t always capture everything, and ever map is made with a particular agenda.


Week 11-12 – Photograph maps from the Davidson archives; obtain permission to georectify and share via neatline

Week 13-14 – Continue georectification, begin to upload maps to geoserver

Week 15 – Upload maps to the geoserver, begin to construct exhibit (select theme, add plugins, write narrative and literature review)

Week 16 – Share with colleagues and community members; solicit feedback

Week 17 – Make changes based on feedback.

Final Project Dates and Tasks: Anthony Elias

For my project, I will create an exhibit that will allow users to see and have a basic idea of the map of a certain type of Davidson College student. In a sense this will be think mapping; however, instead of having many layers of maps, the base map will remain the same while the specific routes, buildings, zoom, etc.. will change. Define the Person, See the Map. Users will see different maps based on whether the student is an athlete or non-athlete, their grade, and whether they are in a Patterson Court organization or not.

Determine different variables: COMPLETED

These are the different types of students that I will use for my project.
These are the different types of students that I will use for my project.


Gathering Data: 11/5 to 11/15

My plan is to present each participant with a campus map and have them draw their ideal mental map to the best of their ability. I will have questions ready to help them  jog their memory so that they don’t forget any important spaces that might seem so routine in their daily schedule that they don’t even consider it. I will need to ask more than 1 person per ‘variable set’ in order to avoid a map that is only specific to certain people instead of certain types of students.

Making the Exhibit

Part 1: 11/15 to 11/20

With my numerous campus maps with drawn mental maps on them, I will average each variable set to form a mental map that isn’t extremely general or specific. For example, the map of a sophomore/athlete/Patterson Court Organization student could include information from a wrestler in Kappa Sigma, a football player in Phi Delta Theta, and a field hockey player from Connor House.

Part 2: 11/20-11/30

Once I have the averages of the mental maps, I will use either Google Map Engine or Neatline (I’m leaning heavily towards Neatline) to create my project. I plan on using the default view for the base map and applying different colored routes and buildings for each variable set. Instead of toggling variables on and off, the user will click through the exhibit by the tabs on the right side. Accompanied with the different routes and colored buildings, I will include a description explaining why there are similarities in differences between certain maps, and potentially include a tour of each map using Google tour builder. The exhibit should be completed by 11/30.

Last: 12/1-possible last deadline

At this point, my project should be winding down to being finished. Once I have completed my exhibit, I will take the remaining time to add any extra features or fine tune other parts. I can also have people use it before I present it to get their opinions. I believe that my argument will create an argument about how the campus is used by certain types of students. Furthermore, it will be exciting to see how much or how little of a change there is between maps of different types of students.


Final Project Plan and Schedule: Joseph Martin

These are the basic steps I think are required to create my idea for a Davidson Mapping App. The goal of this app is to provide users with easy access to descriptions of the places around Davidson Campus along with the names and mapped images usually provided.

Step 1: Location Data – (Nov. 3 – 17)

While this step is neither complex or very difficult, it could be very time consuming. Essentially, I will need to write a few sentences or more about every location that is planned to be in the app. While many of the popular buildings can be written up immediately, I will have to do research about the important qualities of the other buildings as well as what important rooms or departments are contained within them. This research will be done by either talking to students and faculty who use the buildings, or by traveling onsite to the respective places to gather the data.

Step 2: Input Button/Screen System  – (Nov 15-24)

The essential structure of this app will give users the ability to tap buttons that represent each building/area which will take them to the short description of the area in question. Again, this process will be more tedious than complex, as each button should have almost the same programming, with only differing destinations. The features will also include buttons that take users to screen containing descriptions of features located within or directly related to the area currently being described.

Step 3: Extra Features – (Nov 24-End)

At this point, the basic purpose of the app is complete. Users can get information about the places on the Davidson map simply by tapping the building in question. However, at this stage the app is very bare bones, and so a variety of features are planned to be implemented, given that the project has not varied far off schedule by this point.

Possible Features to be Implemented

Search Function: Allow users to search for descriptions based on name, rather than finding the place on a map. This would be very useful for those who are looking for a place inside another building. That might not be able to be tapped from the map.

Locator: Allow users to choose a place in the description list and be taken to an image where that place is clearly shown on the Davidson map.

User Input System: A much more complicated feature that would allow users to make suggestions about potential additions or changes that the app might need, either from a lack of including it in the first place or to adapt to changed circumstances as time goes on.

Project Time Table



Friday November 21st – Literature Review Completed

Tuesday December 2nd – Have tested project on participants

Thursday December 18th – Final Day to Turn in Project

Omeka/Neatline Critique – PA 2

As I am starting my final project using Neatline and Omeka, I thought it would be an appropriate time to critique these tools.

In his article, Jeff McClurken asserts that Omeka is a tool that challenges students to think creatively by making them uncomfortable. As McClurken points out, Omeka is free, it has a large number of useful plugins that provide multiple functionalities, and the basic site is easy to use. Building a complicated site does take more effort and background research, but that taps into McClurkens argument that we learn from being uncomfortable.

One of the most unique aspects of Omeka/Neatline is that it allows you to create a map out of something that isn’t a typical map. By typical map I mean a territory map, as Seth Long refers to it. Long argues that digital mapping interfaces allow multiple finite selectionsto be layered onto one another. In his post he refers mostly to maps of places, but Omeka/Neatline brings digital mapping one step further and allows for maps of any digital picture. A Neatline map could be of a famous painting, a poster with only words, or a city. It allows for mapping to go beyond physical location and enter into the world of mental maps.

In addition to producing unconventional maps, Neatline embraces the term “thick mapping” and provides the opportunity to combine stories, locations, and images in one cohesive exhibit. Nowviskie addresses how Neatline calls for drawing rather than simply creating which gives a more artistic sense to the program. I would go even further and say that Neatline allows authors to discuss, teach, and argue. The thick mapping abilities of Neatline make the “second text” (as refered to by Dodge and Kitchin) just as obvious as the first. Dodge and Kitchin argue that digital cartographies possess second texts that are conscious and unconscious ideological messages that must be deciphered. Neatline allows an author to portray their messages without much deciphering. It provides an inter-textual and multimedia platform that gives an author free reign on presentation and argument.

As with all digital humanities tools, Omeka and Neatline are not perfect. One of the main criticisms I have for Neatline is there is no simple way to demonstrate uncertainty. Reschuel and Hurni point towards the importance of mapping uncertainties in fictional literature, and their concerns can and should be applied to historical mapping. When mapping histories, it is important to note that most of the data comes from oral accounts, history books, drawn maps, and aerial photographs. With each of these resources, one can never recreate history with 100% certainty. If Neatline had a way to demonstrate uncertainties of locations and date ranges the projects would be more accurate (ironically by demonstrating their inaccuracies).

Overall Neatline is a useful tool (with a learning curve) that allows for comprehensive digital mapping exhibits. I would recommend it for any “thick mapping” project.


Define the Person. See the Map.

My project will provide portrayals of different types of Davidson College students’ mental maps to the user in order to show how the campus is used, which will indicate spatial importance amongst students.

My thinking for this project has originated as we’ve talked about maps (and more specifically, mental maps) in class; we’ve come to the conclusion that mental maps of the same location differ because people don’t have identical views of the world. Variables such as age, perception of distance, ease of traveling, importance, etc… come into play when creating these maps. What one person deems far might be valued as close for another. In Soini’s article, we learn that mental mapping shows spatial preferences of an individual (Soini, 229). At Davidson College, our spatial preferences are shaped by what we have to do and what we have time to do when we aren’t occupied by academic, athletic, or extra-curricular responsibilities.  In this way, a mental map is a way of identifying someone or people.  The spaces they frequent say certain things about them. However, a portrayal of someone’s mental map reveals much more about him/her than just location, especially at Davidson.

In order to answer the question of ‘What does a Davidson College student’s mental map look like?”, I argue that not one map, but many are needed because a Davidson College student is a very broad term. As Farman states in “Site-Specificity, Pervasive Computing, and the Reading Interface” of Mobile Stories, “Stories tend to offer the illusion that they present the events in their entirety (and if they leave out anything, the omitted portions are simply not relevant)” (Farman, 9).  This is highly relevant to my project; a mental map of one type of Davidson student will omit things that actually aren’t relevant to him/her whereas another map might include those things.  I want portrayals of the mental maps to be accurate, but I don’t want them to include useless information, which is why I will have many different portrayals for the user to view. Accordingly, certain variables must be included in differentiating these mental maps in order for generalizations to be eliminated (not all Davidson students are the same) but specificity to be limited (narrowing down too much will end up focusing on a particular person). The variables to consider are:

  • Whether the map is for a student-athlete or student non-athlete
  • Grade
  • Whether student is in a fraternity/eating house
  • Time of year (in and out of season and finals period)

Based on the first three variables, there will be 16 different options to choose from.  This means that I will have to talk to at least 16 people to gather the data I need.  From here, I will need to decide on a program in which I will build my map.  I understand that the amount of information that I am including may be problematic, so my backup plan is to just focus on athletes.

My project, made up of many different maps, will give the user the ‘big picture’ regarding differences and similarities of students’ maps at Davidson College. Radzikowska mentions in “The Iterative Design of a Project Charter for Interdisciplinary Research”, that different parts make up the important whole. The important message doesn’t have to come from one giant map with a ton of information, but instead it can result from a sum of relevant maps that each say something about Davidson College. My project could show that 11 out of the 16 options have a certain building in their mental map, which would indicate that this particular building is well-rounded and makes good use of the space, which I deem an important message for future building development.  The messages that my project provides the user will be shaped by how the user received the messages. Therefore, the program that I use will be just as important as the information it shows. Douglas Adams, when talking about how an idea grows in the interview, states that “your decision about what kind of thing it is then determines how it develops.” How I ultimately want my message to be received will be decided on the medium that I use to show it.