Author Archives: jgieseki

Digital Image of the City: Smart City Recommendations for Portland, Maine

In the Digital Image of the City, taught by Jack Gieseking, students were tasked with identifying an issue in the City of Portland related to the topic of housing, infrastructure, or public space. They then conducted qualitative field research and learned the geographic information systems (GIS) open-source platform QGIS. As over half the world’s population now dwells in cities, revolutionary advances in technology such as big data have caused policymakers and activists alike to shift their focus toward a movement of smart urbanism. Smart urbanism includes interventions in urban issues through better uses of technology and data, from gentrification to pollution, access to public spaces to improved walkability. Students then created maps and conducted research to help them devise technological solutions to these issues.

On December 10th, 2014, the students of The Digital Image of the City shared their final smart city solutions for the City of Portland, Maine, which you can read below. Enjoy!

Announcing the Fall Hackathon!

Hackathon November 2014 e-mail

Hackathon November 2014 e-mail


Our fall Hackathon will be held Wednesday, November 12th, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the third floor of the VAC! All Bowdoinites are welcome!


A hackathon is a space for programmers and designers, from novices to experts, to collaborate intensively on software projects. Come start or work on a project, learn a new coding language, visualize data, or how to protect your online privacy! The digital humanities and social science course students will be working on their projects, and local citizen hackers from Code4Maine ( will be in attendance as well. Faculty and students alike are invited. No prior experience is necessary.

ICPSR Data Fair 2014: Powering Sustainable Data Access

Drop in the week of October 6-9, 2014 for one or several webinars offered by the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). Topics include teaching with data, data management, data sharing, sensitive data, ICPSR datasets, and more. Stop by to view the one-hour webinar presentations of your choice! All webinars are being held in  H-L Library, Second Floor, Room 7.  For a full schedule and descriptions of the webinars, see ICPSR Data Fair 2014. 

Questions?  Contact Barbara Levergood.

DCSI Event: Jack Gieseking’s The People, Place, and Space Reader Book Launch

The People, Place, and Space Reader. 2014. Routledge.

The People, Place, and Space Reader. Edited by Jen Jack Gieseking, William Mangold, with Cindi Katz, Setha Low, and Susan Saegert. 2014. Routledge.

Join us for the first DCSI event of the fall!

Book launch: The People, Place, and Space Reader
Edited by our own Jen Jack Gieseking

Wednesday, September 10th
4:30 p.m., Mass Hall Faculty Room

A conversation between Jen Jack Gieseking, Digital and Computational Studies Initiative, & Matt Klingle, History and Environmental Studies

More about the book:
The People, Place, and Space brings together the writings of scholars from a variety of fields to make sense of the ways we shape and inhabit our world. The included texts help us to understand the relationships between people and place at all scales, and to consider the active roles individuals, groups, and social structures play in a range of environments. These readings highlight the ways in which space and place are produced through social, political, and economic practices, and take into account differences in perception, experience, and practice. The People, Place, and Space Reader includes both classic writings and contemporary research, connecting scholarship across disciplines, periods, and locations. Essays from the editors introduce the texts and outline key issues surrounding each topic. This companion website,, provides additional reading lists covering a broad range of issues and open access versions of many of the essays. An essential resource for students of urban studies, geography, design, sociology, and anyone with an interest in the environment, this volume presents the most dynamic and critical understanding of space and place available.

Student Research from Data Driven Societies (Spring 2014)

In the spring of 2014, I (Jen Jack Gieseking) taught Data Driven Societies with Eric Gaze. A geographer and a mathematician, a social scientist and a natural scientist, working together with 35 students with very diverse backgrounds and interests sought to answer one question: what can data visualization reveal and obscure about the world’s increasing obsession with all things data?

Students selected a social justice hashtag of their choice that related to issues of identity, privacy, economics, politics, or the environment. Over a month, students scraped Twitter data on their hashtag. A hashtag is a term with a # in front of it that hyperlinks to all uses of the term that can range from #stopandfrisk and #smog to #gobears. As students read media and conducted research about the issue they had chosen to study, they also began to create graphs, maps, and network analyses from the Twitter data as well as a related dataset they had to find and bring to class. Students left the class with not only a basic understanding of software such as Excel, R, Social Explorer, CartoDB, and Gephi, but also a much more critical eye on the procurement, organization, and manipulation of data.

The outcomes were impressive and inspiring. Many of the students agreed to share their papers and/or presentations publicly, all of which are listed below or you can scroll through them at your leisure. Besides the work by students below, we share our course description as well. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did making them!

Links to student work:

Course description:

Big data and computational methods, such as changes in social media privacy laws and advances in mapping and network analysis, are changing financial markets, political campaigning, and higher education and becoming commonplace in our lives. Our daily existence is increasingly structured by code, from the algorithms that time our traffic lights to those that filter our search criteria and record our thoughts and ideas. In this course, we explore the possibilities, limitations, and implications of using digital and computational methods and analytics to study issues that affect our everyday lives from a social scientific approach. We pay special attention to the ways we collect, trust, analyze, portray, and use data, most especially the tools and meanings involved in data visualization and modeling.

This course tackles a number of cutting-edge issues and questions that confront society today: What sorts of questions can be asked and answered using digital and computational methods to rethink our relationships to data and what can data can show us about the world? How do we construct models to help us better understand social phenomena and associated data? What is data, and how do we know it’s reliable? How do these methods complement and sometimes challenge traditional methodologies in the social sciences? Students will leave the course with both substantive experience in digital and computational methods, Students will learn how to apply a critical lens for understanding and evaluating what computers can (and cannot) bring to the study of society.

Twitter is for Connecting about #LGBT Issues…or Not :: Eva Sibinga ’17

Eva Sibinga ’17’s paper and slides on her research into “Twitter is for Connecting about #LGBT Issues…or Not.” This work is part of the Data Driven Societies course taught in Spring 2014 by Eric Gaze and Jen Jack Gieseking.

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The World Economic Forum – Deciphering Connections to Find Effect Policy Solutions :: Gregory Piccirillo ’17

Gregory Piccirillo ’17’s paper and slides on his research into #WEF14: “The World Economic Forum – Deciphering Connections to Find Effect Policy Solutions.” This work is part of the Data Driven Societies course taught in Spring 2014 by Eric Gaze and Jen Jack Gieseking.

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#Euromaiden – The Power of Digital Activism :: Jimin Sung ’14

Jimin Sung ’14’s paper and slides on his research into #Euromaiden: “The Power of Digital Activism.” This work is part of the Data Driven Societies course taught in Spring 2014 by Eric Gaze and Jen Jack Gieseking.

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