Web-based Multimedia Mapping for Spatial Analysis and Visualization in the Digital Humanities: a Case Study of Language Documentation in Nepal


There has been a growing interest in utilizing geographic information systems (GIS) in the digital humanities and social sciences (DH). GIS-based DH projects usually emphasize spatial analysis and cartographic capability (e.g., displaying the locations of people, events, or movements), however, GIS alone cannot easily integrate multimedia components (e.g., descriptive text, photographs, digital audio, and video) of DH projects. Multimedia mapping provides a unique approach to integrating geospatial information in digital map format and multimedia information, which is useful for DH integration into spatial analysis and visualization. As cartographic mapping and GIS evolve from a traditional desktop platform to the World Wide Web, it is of significance to design and develop a Web-based multimedia mapping approach that could carry out spatial analysis and incorporate multimedia components, which is greatly beneficial to the DH applications. Our objectives of the language documentation research project in Nepal were to (1) use geo-tagging equipment to collect audio and visual recordings of three types of socio-linguistic data: language attitudes and practices interviews, free-form narratives, and elicited vocabulary and grammatical paradigm sets, from representative speakers of the four endangered languages in twenty-six Manang villages; (2) design and develop a Web-based, interactive multimedia atlas that can display data points corresponding to the speakers, links to the three types of data gathered in multimedia format, provides friendly user interface for the manipulation and spatial analysis of all the data. It is anticipated that the Web-based, interactive, and multimedia language atlas can bring all local and international stakeholders, such as the speech communities, linguists, local government agencies, and the public, together to raise awareness of language structures, language practices, language endangerment, and opportunities for preservation, all through this easy-to-use means that enhance the geo-spatial representation in engaging visual and sensory (multimedia) formats. Google Maps API and JavaScript are employed to develop this online, interactive, and multimedia language atlas.

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    All interviews began with an oral consent process (originally composed in English and given in Nepali, the regional contact language), which was based on a script approved by SIUE’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for informed consent in research involving human subjects. This consent process included respondent awareness that his/her information would be made available for public access, through audio-visual and through still (photograph) images.


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This work is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences - Documenting Endangered Languages (funding no. 1149639): “Documenting the Languages of Manang” and by an equipment support grant from SIU Edwardsville. We are grateful to members of the Gurung, Gyalsumdo, Manange and Nar-Phu-speaking communities in Manang, Nepal, for their help in gathering these data. We are grateful to Dubi Nanda Dhakal, Oliver Bond, Sangdo Lama, and Ritar Lhakpa Lama for assistance with interviews. We are grateful to Saita Gurung and Manisha Chaudhary for assistance with atlas construction and development. All errors are the responsibility of the authors.


This research was supported by the US National Science Foundation’s Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences-Documenting Endangered Languages (funding no. 1149639): “Documenting the Languages of Manang” and by an equipment support grant from SIU Edwardsville.

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Correspondence to Shunfu Hu.

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The field data collection (i.e., field interviews) was approved by the SIUE’s Institute Research Board. The authors used an approved oral informed consent script for data collection.

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Hu, S., Karna, B. & Hildebrandt, K. Web-based Multimedia Mapping for Spatial Analysis and Visualization in the Digital Humanities: a Case Study of Language Documentation in Nepal. J geovis spat anal 2, 3 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41651-017-0012-4

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  • Multimedia mapping
  • Spatial analysis
  • Visualization
  • Digital humanities
  • Language documentation
  • WWW