[Side note: I can't help but point out a comical rhetorical stretch in the sponsorship text, which is printed in the exhibition catalogue and, I think, posted on wall text in the entry corridor. Hyundai Card, "Korea's leading issuer of credit cards," indicates that they, too, "introduce an element of style" into their financial services. "Our credit cards are not merely a payment tool: we scour the world for distinguished artists and designers to create premium, distinctive credit cards that provide access to rich cultural experiences." While the connection a bit forced, it is interesting to consider the connections between credit, speculation, and excess in some of the projects on display. See, for example, Mayo Nissen's Visualizing Household Power Consumption and the awesome Feltron Annual Reports. Or consider the fact that the exhibition involves 80 flatscreen TVs, which contributed to the need to install 22 additional electrical circuits in the gallery, according to the WSJ.]
What these humanist Trekkies are doing that's different is using digital mapping tools, particularly GIS, and developing new ways to "spatialize" their research material -- e.g., plotting the scenes of a narrative on a map, or posting historical photos and audio clips to a map -- to address both timeless and new questions in the humanities. The Times article quotes geographer Ann Kelly Knowles, who says: "Mapping spatial information reveals part of human history that otherwise we couldn’t possibly know... It enables you to see patterns and information that are literally invisible.” I'd prefer a slightly more modest claim: creating maps using a combination of GIS, historical maps, sensor data, and other resources, we could possibly see spatial dimensions of history, or of contemporary reality, that might otherwise be difficult to discern. And layering this "data," then analyzing the intersections of those layers, could enable us to identify meaningful patterns that might be "literally invisible" -- they could be created by sounds, or atmospheric conditions -- or they could be merely immediately unobservable.
I think it's important to maintain a degree of modesty in these pursuits: Spatial Humanists certainly aren't the first people making the "