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SA114 - Geospatial Technologies for Social Studies

Instructor Details

Instructor Photo

Viktor Lagutov

Central European University

Instructor Bio

Viktor Lagutov is a Professor at CEU and Head of the Environmental Systems Laboratory.

He coordinates several global communities of the Eye on Earth initiative, focusing on using the latest information and communication technologies for better decision-making in societal and environmental management.

Viktor has been teaching at postgraduate level, and running ICTs and GIS courses for non-technical audiences at professional and executive levels.

Course Dates and Times

Thursday 28 - Saturday 30 July

10:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00

15 hours over 3 days

Prerequisite Knowledge

There is no special prerequisite knowledge and skills required. However, general competence in PC usage (e.g. Windows OS, archive file formats) is essential and expected.

Short Outline

The course aims to introduce the basic geospatial concepts to policy researchers through practical application of relevant modern technologies. Popular geospatial software packages (Google Earth Pro, Google Maps, Quantum GIS) will be used to showcase the current techniques of geospatial data collection and visualization. Course participants will get acquainted with basics of Geographic Information Systems and the ways to utilize them for own research.


Citizen Science (data crowdsourcing) will be covered as one of data generation techniques using services available online. In addition, practical usage of satellite imagery for social studies will be briefly introduced and discussed.


Computer lab-based presentations by instructor will be accompanied by participants’ work on practical hands-on exercises. The course will utilize only free software, so participants will be able to use their own laptops and continue working with software after the course is over.

Long Course Outline

Geospatial technologies have become important tools in social studies and political research. Availability of a variety of tools for geospatial data inquiry, phenomena mapping and pattern analysis have not only enriched research methods used by policy researchers, but also stimulated easy and direct communication of study results. However, high potential of these tools is often being underutilized and neglected by researchers. The course aims to introduce basic concepts and practical applications of geospatial technologies to policy researchers. The most widespread basic geospatial software packages will be used to showcase the modern techniques of geospatial data collection, generation and visualization. Course participants will learn basics and common features of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the ways to utilize them for own research. Both desktop and online packages will be considered.


Though all stages of geospatial data-based research will be discussed, the primary attention will be given to data inquiry and data visualization. Data analysis and manipulation will be limited to illustration of some simple techniques. Potential practical usage of satellite imagery for social studies will also be discussed.


Alternative ways of collecting geospatial data will be considered, including both online data mining and datasets development by researchers. In addition, Citizen Science (data crowdsourcing) will also be included as one of data generation techniques. Several file formats for storing vector geospatial data will be introduced (kml and shp).


Geospatial data visualization will be conducted using free software packages: GoogleEarthPro, GoogleMaps and QuantumGIS. The course covers both reviewing specific features of each software package and combining packages into a single workflow in order to achieve desirable mapping outcome.


Computer lab-based presentations by instructor will be followed by participants’ individual work on practical hands-on exercises. Discussion of theoretical foundations will be limited to the minimum level essential for practical work.


The first day is devoted to GoogleEarthPro, well known, yet often underestimated and underutilized geospatial package. Some neglected features and functions will be presented (historical imagery, map layout development, etc). Numerous thematic datasets in GoogleEarth format (kml) are freely available for researchers online, yet, as a rule, they are not widely known and used. Participants will learn what kind of data can be stored in these datasets, how to obtain, develop and share such datasets. Basics of mapping process and geospatial data will be introduced here.


The second day focuses on online mapping tools using GoogleMaps as an example. Participants will develop and publish maps online using the datasets developed during the first day.


The third day will build up on the skills and knowledge received during the first two days and introduce QuantumGIS package (qGIS). qGIS is considered to be the most popular Freeware Open Source Geographic Information System. During this session participants will learn the basics of a typical GIS package and mapping principles. A simple map will be developed going through all stages of map creation from data collection to map layout design. Being a typical Open Source software package and a result of collaborative work by large community of contributors, qGIS is a constantly evolving software and participants should be ready to implement “learn-by-doing” approach while working with it. The basics received during this session will lay the foundation for further independent work and exploration of other mapping packages.


The course utilizes only free software, so participants will be able to use their own laptops and continue working with software after the course is over. However, course instructions are tailored exclusively to PCs available at CEU labs.

Day-to-Day Schedule

Day-to-Day Reading List

Software Requirements

The course will be conducted at the CEU University labs equipped with required hardware and software. Only free software packages will be used. Participants can also install the above mentioned packages at their personal notebooks in advance.

GoogleEarthPro v7.0 (

GoogleMaps online (

QuantumGIS 2.14 (

Hardware Requirements

PC - Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7.
Participants can bring their own laptops with software installed


There are no mandatory readings apart from course materials to be distributed during sessions.


Optional readings


Smith, M., Goodchild, M., Longley, P. (2015) Geospatial Analysis. The Winchelsea Press, Winchelsea, UK. Free at


Shellito, B. A. (2012). Introduction to geospatial technologies. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Co.

Additional Information


This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed in due time.

Note from the Academic Convenors

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, contact the instructor before registering.

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