On Tuesday, November 24, 2020, the UCSB forum on spatial thinking presents

Subaltern Spatial Thinking: Towards a decolonial approach to spatial technologies


Patricia Murrieta-Flores

Lancaster University

11:30 a.m. Tuesday, November 24, 2020 | Zoom*


The quick emergence of digital technologies and the rise of the use of computational approaches and tools in all disciplines have substantially changed the ways that we do research, expediting and placing at our fingertips datasets and information at a scale that was impossible before. While our societies have enthusiastically embraced this change, technologies are neither unbiased nor innocent. In the wake of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a now-ubiquitous tool, disciplines such as history and archaeology have adopted this technology for the study of the past. This is well represented in the creation of the field called the Spatial Humanities. Rooted in a modern, western and Cartesian conception of space, while GIS has proved invaluable to advance both research and discussions related to geography, space and place in these fields, there is the need for critical reflection regarding its use, and to work towards the development of more inclusive spatial tools. Given GIS’ increasing popularity in Humanities research worldwide, and especially its emergence in the Global South, I will present a case study from research produced in the project “Digging into Early Colonial Mexico: A large-scale computational analysis of 16th century historical sources”, aiming to showcase how through the analysis of Mesoamerican spatial thinking, we can highlight the need of carefully considering the use of particular technologies in historical research, and discuss a decolonial approach to technology.


Patricia Murrieta-Flores is Senior Lecturer and Co-Director of Digital Humanities at Lancaster University. Her interest lies in the application of technologies for Humanities and her primary research area is the Spatial Humanities. Her main focus is the investigation of different aspects of space, place and time using a range of technologies including GIS, NLP, Machine Learning and Corpus Linguistics approaches. Patricia is the PI on the Transatlantic Platform (T-AP) funded project ‘Digging into Early Colonial Mexico: A large-scale computational analysis of 16th century historical sources’, and also collaborator and Co-I in multiple projects funded by the ERC, ESRC, AHRC, HERA, and the Paul Mellon Centre among others. She has edited and contributed to multiple books on Digital Humanities, Cultural Heritage, the use of GIS and other technologies in Archaeology, History, and Literature, and she has published multiple articles exploring theories and methodologies related to space and place. She is currently Executive Board Secretary Elect of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO).

The objectives of the ThinkSpatial brown-bag presentations are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.

Please contact Marcela Suarez (, Karen Doehner (, or Emmanuel Papadakis (, to review and schedule possible discussion topics or presentations that share your disciplinary interest in spatial thinking.

*This talk is a part of the spatial series Knowledge Representation and GeoHumanities; upon registration, you can access all the talks of the series using the provided link.

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ThinkSpatial: Patricia Murrieta-Flores