I chose to research the HyperCities project. This is a project dedicated to using geospatial tools to inform cultural and geographical data. After initially exploring the site, I found that the project is exploring the historical layers of cities and the intersection of modern technology and geospatial humanities. Projects on this website include the use of Twitter to visualize communication in population centers, using GIS to inform the histories of neighborhoods in LA, mapping the spatial layout of a historical roman forum, and more. However, what interested me most was the nature of this project. I immediately noticed that the project had made its code open source and it was available on GitHub (a code-sharing website) to download. One of the projects included a program that is used to sample Tweets based on hashtags in a geographical manner. The project also made the HyperCities source code available. After briefly reviewing the code behind the Twitter project, I was impressed by the volume of work behind a task that most would consider straight forward. The HyperCities project is designed as an educational tool to present historical data through “HyperMedia.”
Unfortunately, I found the layout of the main website to be far from intuitive. The main page is constructed mainly with article previews that expand when you hover the mouse over them. This is a widely used front-end tool but the execution on this website was overwhelming. The site offers a set of organizational parameters to filter the articles but not enough information is provided to understand the purposes of the categories (including “read” and “write”). The problem is that any mouse movement on the home page is distracting.
However, the tradeoff is that the user is given a short summary of each project. In this way, the main page of the site allows the user to get a better sense of the project holistically. The site also contains a list of historical maps that can interface with applications and systems like Google Earth. The project uses historical maps and new geospatial mapping tools for architectural history, disaster mapping, and culture. The homepage is an amalgam of cultural imaging projects, using technology for geographical analysis, and links to backend code for those interested in the microscopic elements of the project.
Overall, the scope of the project seems broad and the potential applications expansive. This is an excellent example of a tool developed for a specific purpose that can be adapted for new uses. While the site seems to be getting less traffic and fewer updates at the moment, it is a technology and codebase with great potential.
- “Thick mapping in the digital humanities.” HyperCities. Accessed February 13, 2017. http://www.hypercities.com/.