How to Create Your Own Maps

When I was studying geography at university I enjoyed creating my own maps using ArcGIS software.  However, I thought my days of creating maps were over when I finished my course and no longer had access to the software.  Fortunately I did the boot camp at the THAT Camp in Canberra last year where Paul Hagon showed us how to create maps through Google Fusion Tables.  How exciting!  In this post I will share with you how I created a basic map of some 2011 Australian census data so hopefully you too can experience the joys of basic map making.

The point of this exercise was to help me learn more about making maps and to explore some of the data available from the 2011 census and the datasets that Australian governments have made available on  I wanted to hone my skills in pulling together data from disparate sources, manipulating the data and mapping it.

The first map that I wanted to create would depict the number of school aged children (those in the 6-18 age group) as a proportion of the total population.  I wanted to concentrate on the Melbourne metropolitan area and its’ Local Government Areas (LGAs).  I needed the following data:

  • a shape file that showed LGA boundaries for Melbourne in .kml format;
  • the number of children aged 6-18 for each LGA; and
  • the total population in each LGA. Continue reading

THAT Camp for Digital Humanities Beginners

If you are new to digital humanities and want to learn more you definitely should attend a THAT Camp!  I travelled to Canberra to attend a THAT Camp for the first time on the weekend.  It was a wonderful weekend meeting people who I follow on Twitter, learning sooo much new stuff, being involved in stimulating conversations about issues in digital humanities and socialising.  I have much to follow up, a ton of new things to learn.  As one of the participants, Abigail Belfrage, so aptly observed on Twitter, “still in anaconda state after ingesting the goat that was #thatcamp canberra. will digest over the next few months…”

Will you feel out of your depth at times being a newbie at a THAT Camp?  Yes you will, but how can you learn if you are not stretched?  We had a boot camp the day before the conference started and it was well worth investing the extra day to learn new tools and consolidate previous learning.  I have lots of things to follow up, but the thing that really excited me was discovering Google Fusion Tables for the first time.  I don’t have access to GIS software at the moment but through Google Fusion Tables I can now create maps of data.  Mmmm, the possibilities….  A big thanks to Paul Hagon for taking many of the sessions I attended – I learned heaps!

THAT Camp Canberra was all that it claimed to be – collaborative, participatory, free of ego, a place to learn, friendly and fun.  These qualities were encouraged because THAT Camp is an ‘unconference’.  How did the ‘unconference’ model work at THAT Camp Canberra?  Firstly unconferences do not have a call for papers or a pre-determined programme.  Participants were asked to propose session ideas before the conference via the conference website.  At the first session of the conference the people who proposed the sessions gave a brief overview of what their topic was about.  There was also room for people to propose new ideas for sessions.  The conference organisers scheduled the topics, assigned rooms to them and wrote it all up on a whiteboard in the foyer of the venue.  We were all set to go!

Skills for Digital Humanities

I’ll cover the details of the sessions that I attended in other posts, but it is relevant in this introductory post to share what was said at the session looking at the skills required for digital humanities.  Suse Cairns summed up what we need to equip us in the field of digital humanities when she tweeted, “Attitude is a hugely important part in digital humanities upskilling. Willingness to experiment, play and get hands dirty.” (Of course an important feature of the conference was the #THATCamp backchannel on Twitter.)  As Tim Sherratt said, “show your working, share, be prepared to fail, display your thinking process”.  Digital Humanities is about experimentation and everyone, from beginners to leaders in the world of digital humanities, have to be prepared to confront what they don’t know, to make mistakes, to shout out for help.  Collaboration, learning and creativity is what it is about.  When we embark on the digital humanities journey we don’t have to have the skills, we have to have the right attitude.  This fits into the current employment market where increasingly people are not hired for specific skills, they are hired because they are trainable and can fit into a team. Continue reading