RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

Spatial History and How Where You Are Determines Who You Are (October 26th, 2015)

Spatial history as it exists in the field of Digital Humanity is fascinating. Our first reading, Humanities Gone Spatial, focuses a lot on the concept of spatial history, and how it is used in a very broad context, while our second reading, Zepher Frank’s Spatial History as Scholarly Practice, pinpoints the Richard Pryor’s Peoria Project as an example of  focused spatial history. This smaller scale something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about without knowing the term for it. My freshman year in college I read Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, and the stories that she told of how she grew as an artist and how important the context of where she was living at the time and who she was able to interact with because of where she was spatially really got me thinking about my own life. In conjunction with reading her book, I encountered people who lived completely different lives and has completely different backgrounds and experiences that made me question what a “universal experience” is. How even though we all came from such utterly different backgrounds most of the time, somehow we all still ended up at the same university, and after a brief interaction with each other, we will all go back into the work to leave our mark. Yet in this brief time, we are all influencing each other, even if indirectly. We meet each other, have classes, have lunch, interact with each other through sports or the arts, and each little change and meeting changes us if only for a moment. Using mapping to portray spatial history is a really fantastic way to look at an individuals life, as the Peoria Project did with Richard Pryor, because it lets you look at the influences that person made based upon where they were, as well as seeing how they were being influenced by where they were. Looking back at my life, I’ve spent some time mapping out my own journey, and with my location being written to every photo I take on my phone, or every time I log into Facebook, I have had plenty of geographic data to work with. This type of data, incidentally, will make projects like the Peoria Project easier, because they have the location data attached to photos and videos, so you an match where and when a person was somewhere. When I looked back at my own spacial history, I saw my past year, photos of summer and winter break popping up at my home, then pictures of my time here at university cluttering the areas where I took the photos. The precision is amazing too, because I could zoom in or out, to where photos were clustered by city, or to where I could see where on campus I had taken the photo. Some of the photos are incorrectly matched, because of some wonky GPS coordinates, but they were still correct within city and such. Looking back at my own spatial history I see where I spend the most of my time where I am also making the types of memories that I feel need to be preserved through photographs. The clusters where thousands of photos pop up are rather interesting and allow me to take a step back and have just one more thing to be aware of myself in my life.

Spatial History

An example of photos on my phone with location history allowing me to see where photos were taken in proximity to a building I am frequently in on campus.


  1. Jaime

    You gave me a new aspect on what the articles were talking about and helped me more understand what Spatial history is. I like how you said that you used the university as an example and how true that the university is completely diverse and how all these different cultures were able to come together in one place and without any judgement and discrimination.

  2. h_mcandrews

    This is a very good insight to the reading and your own personal reading from freshman year. Also the in text links were very helpful . The straight forward concept of spatial orientation molding who you are as a person is easily grasped by our culture and generation. From someone that doesn’t take many pictures or goes on Facebook the digital facets of my life are minimal, but I have experienced many different worlds that changed my life. I look at my life as my own world and wherever I am is a new one like University of the Pacific or my parents house in SoCal. Another world would be growing up I was attending a school that specialized in teaching kids with learning differences and categorized by the state as “slow” (for lack of a better word). The biggest world I experienced was being in the Army. I don’t believe there is a “universal experience” for a culture that is so complex involving things like our social lives through social media. I remember in high school focusing on things that happened on Facebook even had an effect on my life.

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