MAP IT | Little Dots, Big Ideas

This series is co-sponsored by the CFDE.

Digital mapping promises to transform the humanities. It offers scholars fresh tools to develop research questions, analyze data, and publish findings. For example, art historian Ellen Prokop has developed digital maps to evaluate the temporal and spatial distribution of sixteenth-century Spanish artist El Greco’s work. The longstanding art-historical narrative relates that El Greco inspired developments in European modern art. Prokop’s maps show the improbability of this story, prompting reassessment of El Greco’s relationship to modernist artists in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Prokop 2015). Other humanists at the forefront of this innovative approach to the study of art and history employ maps to provide refreshed looks at photography, soundscapes, cities, and developments in the art market.

Cutting-edge projects featured in the series offer the Emory community and people across Atlanta an opportunity to consider a variety of approaches to the joining of geo-spatial analysis and humanistic inquiry.

Read more about the series

Monday, 13 November
5:30 p.m.
Jones Room, Woodruff Library

Digital Development: Mapping Kenya’s “Silicon Savannah”

Lisa Poggiali, Price Center for Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania

In recent years, African states, development practitioners, and venture capitalists alike have become increasingly interested in how digital technologies can be harnessed to reduce poverty, spur democracy, and mitigate other forms of social inequality. Nairobi, Kenya has been at the center of such conversations, as it is a rapidly changing African city marked by both a vibrant local technology sector and extreme inequality. In this talk, Poggiali draws on over two years of ethnographic research with a digital mapping project conceived in Nairobi’s elite spaces of technology production and deployed in its informal settlements. By focusing on both the content and form of the maps, she explores how digital spatial data became imbricated in the ethical and political project of development, and shows how open source digital mapping platforms, in particular, became a battleground on which claims about political belonging and inequality played out. 

Lisa Poggiali is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Price Center for Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research explores how information and communications technologies shape social and political life in urban Africa. Her work has appeared in the journals Cultural Anthropology and Africa, and she has a chapter in the edited volume Digital Media and the Future(s) of Democracy, forthcoming from University of Pennsylvania Press. Her research has been generously funded by various institutions, including the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Fulbright-Hays, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. She holds a Ph.D from Stanford University’s Anthropology Department and an M.A. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She is currently working on a book manuscript based on her dissertation research.

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