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IAS Course: East Asia in the World: Spatial Argument with GIS

This guide accompanies an 8 session workshop embedded in Professor Lori Watt's East Asia In the World first year seminar course


This guide will provide resources to help you navigate your way through the spatial thinking using geographic information systems (GIS) component of the East Asia in the World course.

The outline for the course is: 

Session 1: You will be introduced to spatial thinking, geographic information systems and data management. What you should learn:

  • why and when maps can be appropriate for a research problem
  • how GIS can be used as a tool for spatial thinking
  • the nature of geospatial data and how to organize and manage it

Session 2: You will be introduced to fundamental tasks in GIS using familiar topic/geographic themes. We are using a different problem in a different part of the world to practice before we get into our Senkaku problem. What you should learn 

  • starting a project
  • finding data
  • adding data
  • selecting data
  • symbolizing data
  • saving your project 
  • laying out your map
  • exporting your map to share with others

Assignment for next week: copy data from \\\gispublic to your data folder (see exercise handout)


Session 3: We will create a map of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. You should learn to:

  • add and understand relevant data
  • create buffers
  • spatial join
  • symbolize effectively
  • lay out your map
  • add a historical map to your project

Session 4: You will independently create the Northern Territories map. You should demonstrate that you can create a map on your own from scratch.

Assignment for next week: Use data for the Northern Territories (Kuril Islands) problem to lay our a similar map. See my example.


Session 5: We will create new data and edit existing data. You should earn to:

  • modify existing data
  • create datasets 

Assignment for next week:  Find a map that you think makes an impactful argument. Be prepared to describe the argument and what methods maker seems to have used to achieve it.


Session 6: We will have a lecture and discussion on arguing with maps and then you will work in groups to prepare your argument. You should learn to:

  • think through an argument
  • create an argument
  • evaluate the arguments of others
  • defend your argument

Session 7: Develop maps based on your argument. Studio time (required)

Session 8: Present your maps and argument thus far for feedback to improve it. You will:

  • have five minutes to present maps in no more than five slides
  • get feedback from colleagues and instructors on how to improve your map arguments