Workshop of Working Group 9

On 22 April 2014, Working Group 9 – On GIS and Population - held a workshop “GIS and the integration of individual level sociodemographic data within large urban areas'.

The workshop was co-organized by the EHPS-NET and the Vienna Institute of Demography in Vienna within the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The workshop was partially a pre-meeting to the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC) and a good opportunity to know other similar works taking place on the other side of the Atlantic.

The main purpose of the workshop was to discuss, compare and develop methods and standards for storage, integration, analyses and visualization of data with multiple spatio-temporal representations for large urban environments. These methods are important for a wide range of applications within social science, geography and epidemiology, and are particular crucial to historical demography. Previous workshops were devoted to similar topics but considering municipal level or rural areas data.

The first aim referred to the integration of historic economic and demographic information with historic and modern geographic information. The purpose of this integration is both to enable analysis and visualization. A specific problem in the integration is that the demographic data is individual level longitudinal data whereas the historic maps are only snapshots of the geographic conditions and the change of space within urban areas is very fast. In a second stage, a further methodological challenge is to integrate time-dependent context data on macro level with the individual level demographic and geographic data. This will permit analyses of the impact of common exposure, bound by geography, on individual outcomes. This for example is the case of the identification of deprivation areas within big urban environments.

A second aim is the visualization of demographic and geographic data, especially concerning the problem of their different time representations. This also was discussed from a technological perspective and solutions and methodological choices on how good graphic presentations can be made with the emerging web standards must be compared.

Related to this issue was also the standardization of storage and distribution of historic demographic information. There has been substantial work and progress internationally during the last years. One mission of the workshop was thus to contribute to the standardization work on integration and distribution of geographic data and historic demographic information.

There were 8 presentations by different groups from Europe, United States and Canada. Several of these presentations dealt with spatial analysis of demographic and economic data: infant mortality in Amsterdam and Madrid, urban land property and economic analysis of individual lots in Montreal or health, environment and sanitation in New York City. Other group of presentations where focused on methodologies for building large GIS infrastructures on a semiautomatic system, like the case of John Logan and his work with 60 US Cities connected to the 1940s Census of the United States, the homogenization of municipal boundaries and population data for long periods of time which was the case of the Iberian peninsula, the use within the semantic web of Dutch historical toponyms or the geocodification of historical addresses in Scotland from 1855 to 1974 linking causes of death information and environmental data within the Scottish Longitudinal Study.