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About the project

The concept of space has recently become an important part of the global academic discourse and has had a significant impact on all the humanities and social sciences. The attention of the humanities to the geographical context, the so-called spatial turn, and the interest of geographers in cultural issues, the so-called cultural turn, brought
together history, linguistics, and geography, giving rise to interdisciplinary approaches. Along with the development of hardware and the increasing availability of software, this led to the emergence of Humanities Geoinformatics, an area of research and technology of integrated analysis of sources combined into a geographic information system (GIS). The use of the methods of geoinformatics when studying social and cultural issues made GIS an important component of digital humanities. In Russia and abroad, the number of publications devoted to the methods and techniques of GIS in historical and linguistic research has been growing but the potential of geographic information systems in social sciences and humanities requires further study. Geoinformatics allows historians and linguists for working with a significant amount of spatial sources that can be combined into a single GIS and enables comprehensive analysis of disparate sources: maps, statistics, legislation, etc. Geoinformatics can be used for visualization of spatial sources, modeling the relationships between different phenomena, as well as for the analysis of alternative points of view on the spatial aspects of social phenomena.

Linguistic mapping has been used in linguistics for a long time but only recently has linguistic geography become a research tool for linguists. Geographical aspects have been integrated into typological studies, whereas before mapping was usually confined to the study of the distribution of the dialects of a language or idioms of one language family. Scholars began searching for correlations between language features and geographical distribution of languages. They began working on methods for estimating the geographical distances between different linguistic communities. Despite the emergence of scholarship which employs methods of linguistic geography, there are still no developed linguistic criteria, standards of mapping and databases of previous studies, which leads to the fact that each new map is created only for a particular purpose and cannot be used for other studies.

The group’s activities will be carried out in three areas: linguistics, macro- and microhistory. Firstly, the group will develop criteria and standards of linguistic mapping, and also investigate the possibility of creating a map database of different languages. The database will allow for accumulating the results of research on different areas of linguistics as language features, which will subsequently allow for finding correlations within different linguistic subdisciplines. Second, the group will be mapping the political space of federalism, regionalism and autonomism in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Third, the group will create a multimedia geographic information system for the district where the new campus of the Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg is located. All three areas will be joined methodologically through the common software environment, ESRI ArcGIS and Quantum GIS, and theoretical approaches of digital humanities. The group aims at developing the methodology of Humanities Geoinformatics.

The research group was created in September 2014. It brought together students interested in applied GIS under the auspices of School of History of HSE-Saint-Petersburg. In October 2014, philologists from Moscow campus joined our group. The group got funding within the framework of HSE Academic Fund programme in January 2015.

The project is headed by Ivan V. Sablin, PhD, Senior Lecturer at the School of History of Higher School of Economics in Saint-Petersburg