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.