Lausanne SIG Meeting Notes

July 8, 2014
Lausanne, Switzerland

The inaugural meeting of the GeoHumanities Special Interest Group took place July 8, 2014 prior to the DH2014 Conference, held in Lausanne, Switzerland.  Approximately thirty members attended.  The majority of the meeting was devoted to hearing members discuss projects related to gazetteers ( The day concluded with a spirited discussion stimulated by the presentations and concluded with a short business meeting.  Tweets for the SIG meeting and GeoHumanities member sessions were at #dh2014Geo.  On Wednesday evening, July 10th, twenty members met for a casual dinner.

The following are notes from the business meeting

  1. The electronic mailing list serves as the main communication venue that reaches all members and should be used for announcements, discussions, and other items of interest to the members.
  2. Members are invited to write a blog posting.  Contact co-chairs for submission details.
  3. The SIG could serve a mentoring role for those new to GeoHumanities. Creation of a member directory, enhancement of the GeoDiRT tool and project list will support this function.  Combined with a directory, a wiki could point to members who are willing to mentor others on specific sub-topics.
  4. GeoDiRT is a sub-listing of the resources identified in DiRT that are somewhat geographic and/or spatial.  Members will be asked to volunteer to review tools, as well as submit additional resources.
  5. Members agree that there is value in performing reviews on DH projects.  A wide variety of disciplines have review boards, for example for NINES and the 20th Century projects, however GeoHumanities projects are also in need of reviewers (especially for tenure purposes).  Reviews would not necessarily made of a project’s final form; they could include “open peer reviews” at mid-stream milestones, for example.
  6. GeoHumanities projects listings could point to tools listed in DiRT/GeoDiRT.  Discussion on the project could also be linked.
  7. As SIG members attend their disciplinary conferences, such as CAA (Archaeology), AAG (Geography), ALA (Library), MLA (Modern Language) and others, they could take individual initiative and form a GeoHumanities SIG gathering.
  8. The SIG could serve and be supported by grad students & undergrads, for example by providing tutorials on structuring spatial data or other basic computational skills.  Among the humanities, there lots of interest geographic perspectives and methods, but a relatively low level of understanding and expertise—not unlike statistics.  Humanities project directors and developers need guidance in identifying relevant software at the appropriate complexity.  Not all geospatial work requires full scale GIS.  There are other, lighter-weight software tools available and those need to be described.

General questions and thoughts

  1. What are humanists’ particular geographic computing requirements? Beyond traditional GIS, there is a broad array of geospatial computing tools and these are evolving quickly! In what specific ways do traditional GIS software packages and existing tools fall short?
  2. Place is never only about space, but time as well.  Historical periods are not only temporal but also spatial.  Is there a useful way of modeling space-time settings to reflect this?
  3. The co-existence and combining of spatial and temporal information comes up repeatedly in humanities computing applications. Unfortunately the conclusion is often that it is too complex to deal with.  Spatial-temporal modeling and computation present difficult challenges that have been tackled for some time in GIScience. Progress is being made, but not yet reflected in software.
  4. The CIDOC-CRM cultural heritage ontology group has recently introduced a draft 4D model for historical phenomena (3D plus time).
  5. Pelagios3 has developed the Recogito tool for annotating spatial references in early geospatial documents (finished Latin and now working on Greek) – these are diverse documents!! Time is essential to space & moving through space.
  6. There is huge value in Linked Data.  Linked Data allows you to link multiple representations for a given place.  The recent progress in geographic application of LOD is a unifying and hopeful note!