Encoding the ‘Floating Gap’: Linking Cultural Memory, Identity, and Complex Place

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Diane Katherine Jakacki

    Bucknell University

  2. 2. Katherine Mary Faull

    Bucknell University

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.

In his essay on collective and cultural memory, theorist Jan Assmann points out the metonymous nature and mnemonic function of landscape through time. Drawing on Jan Vansima’s coining of the term “floating gap” to describe the slippage between intergenerational collective memory and reified cultural memory Assmann foregrounds the necessarily metonymic nature of memory. One of the major mnemonic devices of both cultural and collective memory is that of landscape and the names that cultures and the agents of their institutions give features within it.
In this poster the authors build upon work developed over two years – proposed first at DH2018 and expanded upon at the Linked Pasts IV conference – and present a model for encoding what ethnographers term the “floating gap” when constructing an historical gazetteer of place names. This step is especially crucial as scholars make intersections and linkages between place-based, data-driven research projects. Initially proposing a modification of the model put forward by Grossner, Janowicz and Kessler for building out digital historical gazetteers, the authors expand their argument that the concepts for Event and Place used to encode semantic relationships overlook the fact that it is the Actor or Agent who names the events, and thus by extension names the places at which those events occurred. As multiple agents participate in, witness, and/or record events, and the multiple perspectives of those agents directly impact upon descriptions of events, then the place names connected with those events must correspond to those multiple agents. Agents’ perspectives and identifications of place draw irrevocably on their identities and unique authorities. In traditional humanistic terms these multiplicities of relationships of persons to places is the stuff of critical interpretation. In the brave new world of linked data, the vagaries of named places constitute a vexed problem, and attempts to resolve the messiness and fuzziness of place, time, and perspective run the risk of eliding the floating gap of cultural memory.
Drawing on the case study of the Moravian Lives project, which contains many place names in colonized spaces in North America, the authors model Shamokin, Pennsylvania, a place described by cultural representatives as diverse as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 19th-century American writer, Juliet H. Lewis Campbell (aka Judith Canute) and Oneida Sachem Shikellamy. We consider the importance of the “agent” in an event that occurs within a particular temporo-spatial setting. By including agent(s) within this model we thus can deepen the “geosemantic” approach to place that recognizes that a place may be the setting for many events of significance, that significance being dependent on the view of the naming agent.
In a larger sense, we ask how, as digital humanities projects move into a phase where historical place data is linked, can we resist the givenness of authority names? If we apply a metonymic chain of place names rather than subordinated variants can we “call to mind” the cultural and collective memories that form identities around place? Can we assign such a metonymic naming to place and therefore respect the multiplicity of peoples’ cultural memories about those places?

Assmann, J. (2008). Communicative and Cultural Memory. In
Cultural Memory Studies. An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook. Berlin, New York, pp. 109-118.

Canute, J. (1857).
Eros and Anteros, or The Bachelor’s Ward. New York: Rudd & Carleton.

Donahoo, G.P. (2010).
Indian Villages and Place Names in Pennsylvania: with Numerous Historical Notes and References. Lewisburg, PA: Wennawoods Publishing.

Faull, K. (2012). Charting the Colonial Backcountry: Joseph Shippen’s Map of the Susquehanna River.
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 136(4): 461-465.

von Goethe, J. W. (1978) Zum 21. Juni, Karlsbad 1808. An Silvie v. Ziegesar.  
Goethes Gedichte in Zeitlicher Folge. Vol. 1, p. 580.

Grossner, K., Janowicz, K. and Keßler, C. (2016) Place, Period, and Setting for Linked Data Gazetteers. In R. Mostern, H. Southall, and M.L. Berman (eds),
Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Grumet, R. (2013).
Manhattan to Minisink. American Indian Place Names in Greater New York and Vicinity. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Horsman, S. (2006). The Politics of Toponyms in the Pamir Mountains.
Area. 38(3): 279-291.

Jakacki, D. and Jenstad, J. (2016). Mapping Toponyms in Early Modern Plays with the Map of Early Modern London and Internet Shakespeare Editions Projects. In Estill, L., Jakacki, D., and Ullyot, M. (eds),
Early Modern Studies and the Digital Turn. Malden, MA: ITER.

Knowles, A. (2015). Inductive Visualization: A Humanistic Alternative to GIS.
GeoHumanities 1(2): pp. 233-265.

Knowles, A. (2008).
Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship, In Knowles, A. Redlands, CA, ESRI Press.

Moravian Lives project website: http://moravianlives.org/

Mostern, R., Southall, H., and Berman, M.L. (eds.). (2016).
Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Oetelaar, G. A. and Meyer, D. (2006). Movement and Native American Landscapes: A Comparative Approach.
Plains Anthropologist, 51(199): pp. 355–374.

OWL Web Ontology Language Reference. W3C Recommendation 10 February 2004. Accessed 27 November 2018. https://www.w3.org/TR/owl-ref/
Powell, J. (1748). Shamokin Diary. Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, PA. Box 121 Folder 4.
Presner, T. and Shepard, D. (2016) Mapping the Geospatial Turn. In Schreibman, S., Siemens, R., and Unsworth, J. (eds.),
A New Companion to Digital Humanities. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Radding, L. and Western, J. (2010). What's In A Name? Linguistics, Geography, And Toponyms.
Geographical Review. 100(3): pp. 394–412.

Reuschel, A-K and Hurni, H. (2011). Mapping Literature: Visualisation of Spatial Uncertainty in Fiction.
The Cartographic Journal. 48: pp. 293-308.

Stockton, E. L. (1964). The Influence of the Moravians upon the Leather-Stocking Tales.
Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, Vol. XX, Part 1. Nazareth (PA): Whitefield House.

Vansina, J. (1985).
Oral Tradition as History. Madison: U of Wisconsin P.

Count Zinzendorf’s Narrative of a Journey from Bethlehem to Shamokin, In September of 1742. (1870). In Reichel, W. (ed.),
Memorials of the Moravian Church, vol. 1. Philadelphia:  J.B. Lippincott.

Worboys, M. and Hornsby, K. (2004). From Objects to Events: GEM, the Geospatial Event Model. In Egenhofer M.J., Freksa C., Miller H.J. (eds.),
Geographic Information Science. GIScience Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 3234. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.