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Documentation is Key

[Most of this was written in July 2012 with minor edits in 2018 – I think it still holds up well as a snapshot of my work at that time.  AT/10/21/18]

In this blog I intend to write about concrete applications of geospatial technology with a focus on my own projects, which at this point utilize Google Earth as a publishing platform.

I am an information professional enthusiastic about GIS technology, New Media, and the emerging discipline of Digital Humanities.  I began exploring GIS software and technology after attending THATCamp Texas 2011, a Digital Humanities conference held at Rice University and organized by NITLE Labs Director Lisa Spiro (now Fondren’s Digital Scholarship head) among others.  A THATCamp session introduced me to  Rice’s GIS Data Center and I began an ongoing process of learning KML (“an XML language focused on geographic visualization”-OGC) and JavaScript, developing GIS presentations in Google Earth Pro, and taking online ArcGIS courses offered on ESRI’s Virtual Campus.   Everything takes time of course, and I am applying David Allen’s GTD concepts to generate momentum and decrease inertia in my work and life in general.

Perhaps a little more about me. I am a  technologist,  database manager, imaging expert , presentations specialist and various other things.  I live in Houston, Texas and worked at Rice University from 2010-2016 as Associate Curator of Visual Resources for the Department of Art History, which involves metadata and database management, image scanning, image editing primarily in Photoshop, and providing Technology and A/V support to the HART faculty.  I single-handedly converted and imported HART’s 45,000+ images into ARTstor via the company’s Shared Shelf hosting service, which was a large task but turned out well (metadata crosswalk I created and used for that).  At the request of Fondren Library’s Lisa Spiro, I also helped professors and grad students create and publish image assets for Rice’s Imagine Rio project,  first to an MDID2 database and then ARTstor, starting with the project’s beginnings in January 2011 through March 2013.  You may notice some similarities between my work and their institutional projects—this is inevitable given our common interests and the nature of historical materials.

Fortunately timestamps in this blog and elsewhere (e.g., link, link) demonstrate that my spatiotemporal ideas, original or not,  don’t derive from theirs at all, and I expect the reverse is also true.  In fact, spatial history projects have been in circulation for well over a decade, and arguably for centuries.  Unfortunately for me, the Library’s digital scholarship team wanted their people to take over my image database work and manufactured a job redundancy.  My position in the Art History Department was eliminated in December 2016.  Enough about that.

My [July 2012] passion is figuring out how to meaningfully publish Digital Humanities material using geospatial software such as Google Earth Pro and ArcGIS, and create web-based mash-ups that utilize GIS and timelines (a recent interest is Exhibit, part of MIT’s Simile Project).  It is important for humanists to develop a more empirical understanding of geospatial and temporal information and how it relates to the subjects that they study (particularly history and other social sciences).

One point I would make is that my interest is not maps per se but rather how best to share  geospatial (and related temporal) information.  At it’s core, Google Earth is not a map at all, it is a composite image of the surface of the Earth constructed to mimic the real-world physical planet.  Maps can be superimposed on the surface of the GE globe, but unlike pre-digital maps, Google Earth is a simulation of the Earth as a physical object, though a very limited one as Google Earth is basically a two-dimensional  plane artificially textured by inexact elevation data (this sentence sounds good, not sure if I agree with it).

I hope to explore/explain some of my digital projects in plain language, which should develop my writing and documentation skills and connect with others with similar interests, particularly scholars of history and other social sciences. – Andrew Taylor 7/28/12

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