This weekend’s Digital Humanities Showcase introduced several interesting projects that showed the ways that DH’s mapping projects can help conceptualize relationships within and between texts. Maia Gil’Adi’s Zombie Archive and Sylvia and Chris’s Digital DC demonstrate how maps can be used in both literature and history in order to take advantages of the advantages of both fields.
The Zombie Archive uses a map to plot the movements of Mark Spitz, the protagonist of Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. The map, created using Knightlab, allows readers to take a more distant and objective view of the novel’s events and place the actions in a spatial frame–all elements that history traditionally takes advantage of. At the same time, when the user clicks on a node, the map zooms in and reveals an image and blurb filling in narrative information regarding the key location. The map itself is very fluid and user-friendly, simultaneously giving the reader a distant and close view of the novel’s setting and narrative.
Digital DC also uses mapping techniques to allow history students to pin important locations in Foggy Bottom to create an interactive digital exhibit. Digital DC uses Google Maps to create nodes that, when clicked on, bring the user to a page with video, images, explanatory text and a bibliography. Like the Zombie Archive, historical maps and literary narrative are joined to give readers the best of both worlds.
Many popular history texts geared toward a general audience use narrative techniques to make history more personal and appealing to readers. DH’s strong mapping projects take advantage of both elements of narrative and objective mapping to create the same effect.