Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are tools for managing data that represent the location of features (geographic coordinate data) and what they are like (attribute data); they also provide the ability to query, manipulate, and analyze those data. Put simply: a GIS permits planners to make maps that answer questions. GIS has become an important analytical tool for a variety of fields that study and shape cities: planning, architecture, engineering, public health, environmental science, economics, epidemiology, and business. As GIS has become more accessible, it has also become an important political instrument that allows communities, neighborhoods, and activists to graphically tell their story. This class will introduce the basics and offer a survey of what GIS makes possible.
Even as we learn to leverage spatial data to answer questions and tell stories, we will also be developing tools and frameworks to do so reflexively. Maps have been (and are) essential instruments for enacting racist urban policy, enabling colonial expansion, and justifying oppression; they have also been (and are) tools for resisting the same. Maps, map-makers and their institutions have positions and histories, and we will build this assumption into all of our mapping work.