In April of 2008, Literary and Linguistic Computing published an overview by Martyn Jessop of factors contributing to a surprising “inhibition” of the use of digitized maps and Geospatial Information Systems in the digital humanities. That GIS approaches -- important for scholarly engagement with space and implace -- have been slow to penetrate a population generally receptive to new practices and technologies begs a discussion of issues at once historical and methodological, institutional and pragmatic. It also demands serious engagement by scholars, programmers, librarians, and advocates for shared data and transparent, flexible, open services.
The Scholars' Lab's NEH-funded Institute for Enabling Geospatial Scholarship argued that, to be effective, this engagement must come at many levels simultaneously: we must work to build core infrastructure to support GIS and leverage the strengths of (primarily government and academic) data providers; we must carefully analyze past successes as well as failures in the digital humanities in order to move forward with more robustly-imagined scholarly projects; and we must interrogate both a toolset that has evolved to suit scientific inquiry (that is, positivist models of physical behavior and dense, detailed, precisely-defined data sets, generally synchronic) and our own inherited systems for interpreting the human record within a spatial field.
Above all -- because place and space, whether specifically geo-referenced or wholly conceptual, are common denominators in humanistic disciplines – we must make a concerted effort at supporting and understanding what it is that we do, when we "do GIS."
Read more about the Institute here.