Blog Post

Little question vs. the big question

Very excited about our GIS workshop today since I plan to use GIS technology to create a visual map in order to understand the anthracite coal mining region in northeast Pennsylvania better. I had originally wanted to use GIS technology to answer this question: Did tree planting initiatives actually bring new industries to the region? This is really a sub-question of my dissertation, a little question. When applying for this fellowship, for some reason I was hesitant to attempt to use digital technologies to tackle my big question, the overarching question I want to answer in my dissertation. Over the past few months, however, I think our workshops have made me realize that I can and should be using digital scholarship in order to do exactly that, tackle the big question. So I am starting to think that instead of focusing on tree planting, I should look at my big question: did environmental regulation in the anthracite region lead to job loss like so many coal operators claimed? And today’s workshop really solidified for me that I can use GIS to make more sense of this big question. I can create a layered map that charts regulation, job loss, as well as technology change so prevalent in the region in the post war period.

A note on data as well. Throughout this semester especially in our workshops I have really come to understand that a digital tool is only as good as the data that it is being fed. While I do have some data on tree planting, I think there is much more data about coal output and jobs statistics. I believe this data will not only be easier to find, but I think there is a ton of it which would lead to a richer and more useful final project.

That is not to say I forgot about the trees! I am still interested in these tree planting efforts and hope to incorporate my small question into my final project as well. 

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1 comment

Gread to see you identifying the potential of these new tools, and using it to refine your research question. 

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