Introduction to Digital Humanities

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

Spatial History v. History

Spatial history is different from reading about history through passages in several ways. While a history attempts to chronologize a certain time, offering a linear glimpse of the past, spatial history offers a more comprehensive understanding of the past, overlaying various mediums to visualize and explore the relationships of objects (i.e. people, locations, etc.). In Frank’s words, the advantages of using spatial history are as follows: “1.) the possibility of creating multiple interlinked narratives; 2.) the possible integration of images, maps, commentary, and primary sources in the same field of vision; and 3). the ability to curate and shape the reader/viewer’s experience, with nudges as well as explicit direction, allowing for a hybrid experience in which exploration of the material is conducted with the aid of an unobtrusive but effective guide.” The disadvantages are as follows: “1). the danger of getting lost, of missing major aspects of the larger argument owing to the lack of a single unifying narrative line, and 2). the risk of simple cognitive overload or dissipation of energy in clicking through various strings of linked material on the site.”

Richard Pryor’s Peoria can be considered spatial history as it is not merely a history of Peoria, although the creator of the website has added the typical historical aspects. Scott Saul also augments the history with “alternative media–namely,…interactive websites filled with links to primary documents and short filmed sequences designed to provide a visually rich narrative pathway into the material for novice users.”  Through the website, users of the website can interact with various aspects of Peroria and formulate their own opinions rather than just merely believe in a single written history. In that way, the illustrations also become the basis of arguments rather than mere documents that are taken at face value.

Richard Pryor's Peoria

If I could do a spatial history, I would do it on the life of classical musicians. It’s interesting to note where the musicians came from and what influenced their music. Not only does location play a part in that, but their interactions with other musicians and acquaintances do, too. If I created a website, I’d add a list of composers who worked with each other and a history of their interactions with possible influences. Their personalities and life history would be something I’d research as well, allowing others to understand why a composer may have written a certain piece. As an additional resource, musical terms would help teach a person how to read a piece, giving in depth knowledge of the emotions that go into writing it.


  1. I really liked the way you laid out this posting; especially the first paragraph. Before this reading, I had no idea what “spatial history” was, or how it differed form regular history. Just by reading your first paragraph, I got a great understanding of what spatial history is. To me, its quite interesting. The idea of looking at thr past as a whole, not just dates or times, but dates, times, people, images, etc.

    I really like your choice of what you would do for a spacial history. The life of a musician would be rather interesting. You make a good point about what makes the life of a musician: where they grew up, who influenced them, what time period they grew up in, etc.

    Great Job!
    -Raheem Baig

  2. I like how you defined spatial history as an option that provides a comprehensive understanding of the past through mediums that allows an individual to see history in places/locations where the events unfolded. From the read, I felt Frank’s third point (which you listed above) is the most important. The reader/viewer experience will be shaped as a result of using this new technology. Granted this may take some time to catch on. However, I feel that this is perfect to relearn history through actual events/location instead of reading it straight out of a textbook.

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