There’s a great article in yesterday’s New York Times that examines efforts by those in the social sciences and especially historians to utilize GIS technology to better understand the past. GIS, or Georgraphic Information Systems, uses computerized maps as a starting point and then adds layers of other information – some of it map based, some of it in tables or text, to provide far more information and to allow far greater analysis of that information than was ever possible before. An example given in the article is a re-examination of the battle of Gettysburg. By plotting the topography, the vegetation and the buildings as they were in late June 1863 on a three dimensional map, historians are able to place themselves in the very spot occupied by General Lee or Longstreet and see exactly what those commanders saw at the time. Much of the advancement in this technology is driven by the video gaming industry, but the historian is the beneficiary of this technology. Here’s the article.