Digital Mapping

What is Digital Mapping?

Digital mapping is a method for preparing maps in which the data is stored on a computer for ease of access, updating, and sharing. Digital mapping also enables spatial analysis, which is the process of examining patterns of human behavior as they relate to spatial expression.

Why use Digital Mapping?

Digital mapping can be used to find patterns in your data. This technique allows for the visualization of the geographic component of data which remains hidden in other forms. You also might want to create a narrative where geographic location is a driving force of the storyline. Digital mapping can be used to find missing pieces in a dataset, since empty data points become visible when they are mapped. Finally, digital mapping is a compelling way to present and share your data with others.

What can I do with Data Mapping?

Create maps for publications

Digital mapping is a great way to create a map to include in a publication. Researchers across the University use digital mapping for this purpose. Though the interactive elements of digital maps are lost in this process, researchers often find that the inclusion of a custom made map is a perfect and illuminating addition to an article or book.

Bring together several data sets and looks for patterns

Digital mapping can be a powerful approach to bring together geographic data from several sources into one map and look at the relationships between the data. In the Introduction to ArcGIS online workshop, participants download several datasets about food insecurity in Washington DC from DC Open Data and create a single map showing how all these data relate to each other.

Tell a story

Maps can also be a great way to tell a story. Students in Dr. Chandra Manning’s HIS 396: Jacksonian America class used the tool StoryMaps to tell the story of “contraband camps” in Washington, DC.

How do I get started with Digital Mapping?

The Research Guide on GIS has more tools and resources. Workshops on various data visualization topics and tools are hosted each Fall and Spring semester. For a one-on-one consultation on data visualization, email