ICC Programming

Digital Humanities

6705.1 - Narratives as Geographic Database: A Methodological Guide to Map (Life) Stories

Thursday, July 6
4:10 PM - 4:30 PM
Location: Virginia C

As argued by a growing body of scholars interested in "deep mapping", there is a broad recognition of the importance of mapping stories for understanding places. What is less clear is how to turn these stories into maps. This paper focuses on the multiple methodological and conceptual challenges raised throughout the process of turning highly personal and emotional life stories into abstract databases in order to map them. For this project ten life stories of refugees from Rwanda and Haiti have been selected from the Montreal Life Stories Project, housed by Concordia’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. These ten audiovisual stories in the form of interviews have been manually translated into databases using two different approaches: the first is more quantitative and is inspired by what Franco Moretti called a “distant reading”, while the second is a more qualitative one, a close reading, which relies on an analyst’s active interpretation of contextualized story elements. Throughout the mapping of the results of these two approaches, we emphasize the pros and cons of each of them in terms of accuracy, efficiency and relevance to mapping life stories and to extracting spatial meaning from these stories. We illustrate these results by comments provided by storytellers themselves and we conclude by proposing a methodological guide designed for anyone interested in mapping stories in a sound methodological way.

Sébastien Caquard

Concordia University

Sébastien Caquard is an associate professor in geography at Concordia University.

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Stefanie Dimitrovas

Concordia University

Stefanie Dimitrovas holds a degree in Geography from Concordia University.

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Emory Shaw

Concordia University

Emory Shaw is a MSc student in geography at Concordia University.

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John Kostelnick

Associate Professor
Illinois State University

John Kostelnick is an Associate Professor of Geography and Director of GEOMAP at Illinois State University in the United States of America. His research interests include geovisualization, cartographic symbolization and design, crisis and humanitarian relief mapping, and cultural mapping.

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