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  • Mapping the Lakes: A Literary GIS: David Cooper, Lancaster University

David began by establishing the conceptual foundations for the British Academy-funded pilot project, 'Mapping the Lakes: A Literary GIS': an interdisciplinary Digital Humanities project which emerged, in part, out of David's PhD thesis on post-Romantic representations of the Lake District.


Broadly speaking, the pilot project was initially informed by two principal questions:

- How can GIS be used to visualise the way in which particular landscapes have been re-represented and imaginatively reconfigured over time?

- How can GIS be used to highlight both imaginative 'hot-spots' (those geographical locations which have been repeatedly represented in literary texts) and sites of cultural marginalisation?


At the same time, though, the 'Mapping the Lakes' pilot project was underpinned by further questions:

- How might literary GIS be used in pedagogic practice across a range of subject areas?

- How might work on literary GIS provide the basis for knowledge transfer?

- How might the construction of literary GIS advance the conceptual interesting of the literature of space and place?


In the first instance, the pilot project focused on the mapping of two key Lake District texts: Thomas Gray's Journal (1769); and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's walking tour (1802). David discussed the practical creation of the literary GIS and explained how the project website sets out a spatial narrative predicated upon the creation of a series of increasingly qualitative, and interactive, digital maps. (See www.lancaster.ac.uk/mappingthelakes)


David argued that the pilot project raised a series of possibilities, including:

- The shift of GIS research from the mapping of quantitative to qualitative 'data'.

- The potential for further - and theoretically rich - interdisciplinary research.


At the same time, though, he acknowledged the limitations of the pilot project, including: - The need to retrace the writers' movement through space with the use of hand-held devices.

- The fact that the project website probably occupies a space inbetween scholarship and general accessibility.


Proposed project:

- To work with the British Library on a digital edition of Coleridge's Lake District Notebooks, using 'Turning the Pages' technology.

- To work in partnership with the Ordnance Survey to use Coleridge's Notebooks to explore subjective (both writerly and readerly) mappings. Unfortunately, however, the application to the AHRC was, ultimately, unsuccessful.


Next steps?

- David remains interested in the theoretical possibilities opened up by both the 'macro-' and 'micro-mapping' of geo-specific writing, particularly in relation to the complex spatial history of the Lakes.

- Need to develop extant links with both the British Library and the Ordnance Survey; and to further partnership with the Wordsworth Trust.

- Need to consider use of hand-held technology.