I’m putting together an aspirational syllabus for a digital humanities/mapping course, and have been thinking about my favorite maps, and why they work so well. Here is a very-not-complete list of my current greatest hits:
This is, by far, my favorite digital mapping project. I’ve seen Vincent Brown speak on it, and I was quite impressed by his articulation of why we need a map like this to understand enslaved rebellion. Because records of these uprisings tend to have been produced by ruling elites who were actively opposed to representing enslaved resistance as anything other than barbarous and futile, it would be easy to think that this uprising – and many others like it – were haphazard and poorly planned. Brown’s map, on the other hand, reads the colonial archives against the grain to show us the strategy that underlay this revolt. I love that he uses sources in which obscuring enslaved agency is a feature rather than a bug to highlight that agency.
A little less high tech, but still a great example of how a geospatial perspective can give us new, or at least different information about an historical event. One of the persistent fictions about the Chicago fire is the culpability of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, so it’s interesting to see how the fire spread, but also to treat the path of the fire like a walking tour, and to map it onto Chicago’s geography today.
This is just ridiculously cool (and reminds me of a book I just finished about London’s underground rivers). It borrows aesthetically from the iconic tube maps, but instead of information about subways gives us the sound of underground waterways. There are some other great soundmaps on this site, including ambient London noise, the sound of the Thames estuary, and a handy map of the most common sounds in different parts of the city. The whole thing is worth exploring.
While we’re talking about aural mapping…
Here’s a project which uses immigration data to create a true aural map of changes in American demography over time.
And finally, everything NOAA does, but especially their geospatial services.
Now it’s all about convincing the undergraduates that maps are cool…