Virtual representation of enviro-historical data

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 10:45 to 12:30

Cartographic and written sources provide a multitude of historical environmental data. Why are such data relevant from today’s perspective? Since centuries, the environment, i.e. river landscapes, have been intensively modified by humans. Both, natural resources and human actions contributed to the current situation of our environment. They also affect the current and future scope of action for human demands such as food production, urban expansion, use of natural resources, etc. Thus, the knowledge of the causes of past environmental changes can boost our understanding about the natural resources that can be potentially used by humans in the future. In this respect, the representation of environmental-historical data as a transdisciplinary tool can help to improve the public perception and comprehension. Virtual representations can also be used as a common platform to support interdisciplinary scientific discussion processes.

The lecture goes beyond a mere illustration of historical data. It highlights the combination of both representation and data analysis that can be used in the framework of research projects. Based on examples from the Danube River, the use of different types of historical sources for virtual representations will be shown. In order to enable scientific analyses, geometric structures used for the illustration of the historical states of landscapes are defined by their ecological, hydrological and socio-economical functions. Such an approach provides a good basis for interdisciplinary scientific discussions. Optimally, tools used for virtual representation should also allow for data analysis. This calls for the use of geographic information systems (GIS), which will be also discussed in the lecture. 

Students are asked to read the attached course readings prior to the lecture:

Reading 1: Article about historical GIS as an analytical tool for studying past geographies

Reading 2: Article about the use of historical sources for the interdisciplinary discussion of past river landscapes and for virtual representation

Reading 3: Historical illustration of the arrival of Emperor Maximilian II in Vienna after his coronation in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1563 (published by Caspar Stainhofer 1566). Please think about the following questions: 

  • Which natural and human structures can you identify in the depicted river landscape?
  • What kinds of natural (ecological, hydrological) functions may they have shown?
  • What kinds of human uses were potentially supported by the different natural structures of the riverscape?
Scientific area: 
Fluvial morphology
River landscapes