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Teaching and Learning Multimodal Communications

Alyssa Arbuckle, Alison Hedley, Shaun Macpherson, Alyssa McLeod, Jana Millar Usiskin, Daniel Powell, Jentery Sayers, Emily Smith, Michael Stevens, Authors

This comment was written by Daniel Powell on 28 Aug 2012.

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Mapping Southern Spaces: Reflections on GIS

I found this assignment to be the most rewarding and time-consuming of all those I completed throughout the term, with the exception of the multi-component final project.

For this prompt, I chose to create a Google Earth map of a large park near a former apartment in Charleston, South Carolina. This park had, in 1902, been the location of a year-long, World's Fair-type event called the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition. The Exposition involved elaborate waterworks, three large scale, permanent pavilions, numerous smaller, house-sized exhibit spaces, agricultural fields, botanical gardens, and so on. As of 2012, the sole remaining features from the event are a large central reflecting pool, a large gazebo that has since been relocated, and the space of the Exposition itself, transformed in the 20th century into a large park.

I began the project by finding a contemporary guide to the Exposition. I then layered the included map over Google Earth satellite imagery of the event's location; this map can be made more or less transparent, allowing users to see the plotted locations of numerous structures both in the original context of the grounds' layout and in the modern context of neighbourhoods, marsh front, and public park areas. Using the contemporary map, I was able to plot the location of a dozen structures from the original Exposition; these points were then used to populate a spreadsheet, linked to from the Google Earth .kmz file, along with other information about each structure. This results in an interactive map where various structures are labeled; users can click on the plotted structure to see a contemporary image or video (taken from the public Internet Archive or the Library of Congress) associated with that site, as well as an original or library description.

Although I have worked on The Map of Early Modern London project at the University of Victoria, I had very little exposure to geographical information systems previous to this prompt. The experience of planning and implementing a self-designed GIS project, even on this small scale, gave a powerful impression of the possibilities inherent in such ventures, as well as the considerable time commitment such projects entail. After this mini-GIS project, I began imagining various ways of integrating similar types of critical creation into my research and into future pedagogical instruction. The immediacy of an interactive reward, and the iterative processes involved in troubleshooting and completing such a GIS project, were highlights of the course.

Author: Daniel Powell
Word Count: 408
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