In examining these projects, my goal was to understand the functional and theoretical differences between Neatline and Hypercities, as geo-spatial mapping tools. Both enable a user to experience content in relation to a specific geographic area, bringing to the surface connections and insights that would otherwise be obscured in analog form.

The Neatline projects are a good example of this. The map of the Battle of Chancellorsville tacitly makes the argument that this and other key events are complex issues. They are the work of many individuals and many strategies. As one browses through the phases of the map, it becomes clear that the confederate victory was largely due to tactical prowess. This argument was supported by an interesting blend of traditional document analysis through a new digital framework. The map of Chancellorsville is placed onto an actual, interactive, up to date map of the U.S., with a moveable timeline. The site draws attention to the complexity and significance of the battle. To strengthen this purpose, I would highlight, or create a shortlist of key events within the geo mapping feature. This would enable users to more easily sift through the dozens and dozens of events and notations.

The Henshaw Maps project also promotes a unique spatial argument: no map is objective. Henshaw’s portrayal of the landscape was a product of her educational upbringing, perspective, and emotional connection to the area. The makers took original copies of Henshaw’s works and placed them on a current U.S. map. While this does reveal the intricate nature of the maps, the use of text is somewhat muddled, making it hard to sift through the collection of maps in a methodical fashion. Creating a clear framework of ‘sign posts’ would benefit the user and the argument.

Hypercities provides an alternative method of geo-spatial analysis. It, among other things, “transforms how human beings conceive of and experience places” (1). This platform promotes the following arguments. The Holocaust site allows the reader to see the connection between text and real places. Rita and Serena come alive as one sees the actual geographic space between events. The platform uses birds eye mapping (Google Earth), combined with a from the ground photo. This is an effective merger of both the big picture, and the historical memory associated with each place. Because the site aims at illustrating the relationship between places past and present, I think that adding details about how that specific place has changed would be beneficial. In this site, and the “Tale of 2 Castles”, thick mapping allows the reader to (almost) seamlessly transition between considering old documents/maps, and a more comprehensive view of the relationship between these places. Hypercities allows for this kind of real time, detailed comparison.

In summary, Neatline seems to be a more effective tool to reconsider old documents through projection on to a contemporary mapping platform. While Hypercities can do this, it more often than not relies on a combination of text, photos, and Google map features. The two are similar, but vary in where they draw the reader’s attention. Neatline encourages the reader to reevaluate the old document. Hypercities encourages the reader to reevaluate their perception of place. Both platforms enable the user to blend together sensory, geographic, and intellectual analysis. Indeed, these methods in geo-spatial mapping further the goals of Digital Humanities.

-Jackson Graves

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