Given that all everything and every event in history has occurred in physical space, it would be reasonable to approach history with a spatial awareness in mind. However, in many cases such an approach is new and only recently approached through digital humanities. This week’s readings shed a lot of light on the topic.
“What is Spatial History” provides the best understanding of the topic, by explaining spatial practice (our movement within a space), representations of space (documents), and representational space (symbolism associated with spaces). It’s honestly a lot easier to understand than Lefebvre’s own writing. It is interesting to consider this multi-tiered approach to spatial history, and one I find particularly effective. Presenting the movement of individuals within a space, the visual representation of the space, and the meanings of the space would make any spatial location accessible to research. This idea is put into practice by contextualizing it with GIS mapping and also examples such as the Shaping the West project and maps. By looking at movement across space and asking questions of events occurring in these spaces, a whole new approach to history and human movement is possible. As White emphasizes, it’s more than just maps, it’s a means of doing research.
I personally don’t understand much about GIS, but the idea of creating a well-rounded, multilayered map of an area, to show everything from travel to population, would absolutely contextualize that area in the given time period of study. Even more I find the idea of CAVES fascinating. To fully immerse someone in a recreated location through both visual and no-visual media, sounds like an exhibit curator’s dream. I play a lot of videogames, and have even played a few Virtual Reality games in the past year, and I can support fully the idea of gaming technology aiding in approaches to spatial history. Unquestionably the games I love the most are the ones that immerse you within the space of the game, though sights and sounds and a vibrant sense of that location’s culture, even it it’s a digital recreation of small-town America. Just as videogames bring these fictional realities to life, so too could the same technology immerse and contextualize the spaces of our past. Spatial history can be so much more than simple maps; if done correctly it could be an approach to new understandings about movement in the context of history, and a means to recreate spaces for historical pursuit.