A case in point (or line, or polygon)Posted by Laura Danielson on Jun 28, 2012 in Blog, Spatial Humanities | 0 comments
It’s been another long day up at the Polis Center. I considered making a clever remark about the intellectual discourse hotting up along with the weather, but abandoned the idea in its design stage.
Today we continued the task of team-working, test flying our ideas and conceptions of what a deep map should look like. Interesting to see in our end-of-day meeting just how our visions are aligning. If archaeology is a jigsaw where you have no box-lid picture of the complete image and no idea how many pieces there are, then deep maps are that, then they are that, but with pieces that can exist anywhere in time, and which have meaning only when they are in a particular place.
Except that we *do* have a box lid image of the complete picture: it’s called the Digital Atlas of American Religion. Great, sweeping vistas of colour sweeping from coast to coast, telling us all about prominent religious families (in the typological sense), the religious censuses, adherents and congregations, and much more. A wealth of visualisation that no one could make sense of without synthesis and visualisation. Our preoccupation – in our team – has been visualising and conceptualising the humanity behind the pixels, and that’s why, for today’s post, I wanted to depart slightly from describing what we think a deep map is, to something slightly more methodological, which is the importance of the case study in the creation of deep maps. It’s something I think should be captured: most of our most productive discussions – and we have not been short of productive discussions these past two days – have been when we focused on the particular case of a particular congregation. Through the sources, we get to meet the dramatis personæ. We get to, metaphorically, walk through their environment, imagine what it must have been like to walk in their shoes, see the great events and debates of the day through their eyes, witness the role their communities played in the shifting sands of American society.
We have focused a lot on process in our group, and quite rightly so: But we have two kinds of process going on here: the process where we, as scholars, turn our sources into a deep map – or at least into deeply mappable objects (a phrase that, itself, could be read more than one way), and the processes that are being mapped. The difference? We have a clear idea of how the former relate to each other. We need to discover how the latter relate to each other (maybe that’s a narrative). I started off scouring the sources Mike assembled today looking for processes connected with evolution. Through a basic process of spatializing the data, I ended up with oblique references, from 1933, to the Red Scare of the thirties and forties. Such serendipity and surprise is, for me, what deep mapping is all about; but it’s the case study that got me there. One thing I really hope we get from this week is a methodology – a process - for interrogating case studies and pulling out the building blocks of deep maps.
- Stuart Dunn