Landscape Narrativity in 3DH: Questions for an Experimental Geography By Maria McVarish

23 Apr. 2018

An extraordinary array of digital modeling tools have come into mainstream use within the last few decades. Most, like Geographic Information System mapping technologies, originated in the social and physical sciences, where ‘data’ are conceived quantitatively. While digital humanists have probed and challenged these tools, many have bemoaned the positivist premises that undergird them. In part because empirically-oriented digital tools are now able to make appealing visual arguments out of historically un-sexy numbers, places, names and dates, software developers have begun to turn their attention to what these tools cannot metabolize directly. The constraints their algorithms impose on data are perhaps best exemplified in connection with the narrative form. After reviewing a sampling of contemporary digital story-telling platforms, I will try to work through some promising developments for digital narrativity in 3DH (a.k.a. digital humanities in the ‘third’ dimension) – in which a group of scholars are re-conceiving digital tools with an eye to humanities research, designing softwares, codes, platforms and tools that give visual form to ambiguity, contradiction, interpretation, argument and critique, among other non-empiricist concerns. If realized, these new frameworks could revolutionize how we study the social construction of landscape, reinvigorating debates over contested claims to place and heritage, the relationality of space, the meanings and effects of social forces on and in the physical environment, and much more. This lecture builds on the 3DH community’s attempts to re-imagine digital research and communication technologies, inventing tools that will bring new methodologies to scholarship in the geo-humanities.

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Maria McVArish also held a Tea Hour workshop. Information on the workshop can be found here.


Maria McVarish is an architect, artist, and visual researcher practicing in San Francisco. She has taught architecture at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design and interdisciplinary studies, critical theory and design at California College of the Arts. She is currently a doctoral student in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University, where her research centers on the impact of industry and technology on landscapes. Her essays, drawings and sculpture have been published in Memory Connection Journal, Diacritics, Zyzzava, How(ever), Architecture California: the Journal of the American Institute of Architects and The Art of Description: Writings on the Cantor Collections. Her architectural work has been featured in California Home and Design, Southface Journal and CNN’s television series Earth-Wise.