Workshop 3 : Tackling Socio-environmental Issues: Stakes and Potentials of Using Geospatial Technologies  

Workshop 3 : Tackling Socio-environmental Issues:

Stakes and Potentials of Using Geospatial Technologies



  • Anne Casile

Archaeologist (IRD, PaLoc, Paris; IFP, Pondicherry)

  • Rémy Delage

Geographer (CNRS, Center for South Asian Studies, Paris)

Invited tutors:

  • Stéphanie Duvail

Geographer (IRD, PaLoc, Paris)

  • Vincent Herbreteau

Geographer (IRD, ESPACE-DEV, Paris)

  • Olivier Telle

Geographer (CNRS, Géographies-Cités, Paris)

  • Shanti Pappu 

Archaeologist ( SCHE, Chennai)

  • Kumar Akhilesh

Archaeologist ( SCHE, Chennai)



Advances in spatial technologies and spatial data infrastructures/services, and the development of digital globe browser – such as Google Earth from 2005 onwards – have been major factors in raising awareness and interest toward critical spatial and interdisciplinary thinking in many research fields. In the humanities and social sciences, the integration and spatial analysis of geographically referenced information into scientific conceptual frameworks has gained momentum over the past 10 years with the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – a computer-based technology allowing to handle and analyse spatial data – and satellite imagery freely accessible through the internet.

In recent years, the flow of information from a host of sensors has grown exponentially. Providing with a discovery, descriptive and analytical tool, the incorporation and manipulation of remotely sensed data into a GIS offer great potentials for research to document the human, natural and built system components of the earth, and to explore the complex interfaces and interactions between society and the environment in relation to a number of issues: resource management strategies and impacts, social vulnerabilities in the face of hydroclimate risks/variability/disasters, water accessibility and sustainability, water depletion, land cover and land use changes, the impacts of human activities on earth, of changing water resources on agro-ecological production systems, settlement dynamics, and so on.

Today GIS and software for image processing, pattern recognition, and scientific visualisation are in widespread use through many disciplines, especially in the environment and health related research domains, and in applied science. Yet, it appears that most students and scholars from social sciences and humanities do not know what GIS is and can do, how it can be used, what types of data can be extracted from and analysed through remotely sensed images.

The objective of this workshop is to focus on the use, potentials and limits of spatial technologies for research in the social sciences and humanities concerned with issues at the interface between water, society and environment. Highlighted with case studies taken from various disciplines, it will provide a broad introduction to basics and principles of GIS and remote sensing. The workshop is opened to students from all disciplines, who are interested in spatial analysis and willing to implement GIS, spatial technologies and approaches in their research project. The practical work will make use of free software and satellite images.

Workshop 3 schedule

9:00-9:30 Opening speech

Introduction and objectives of the workshop

Presentation of trainers and participants

9:30-11:00 Questioning water/society/environment interfaces and interactions in social sciences and humanities using spatial technologies and approaches
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:30 Introduction to the potentials of GIS and satellite imagery for research  in social sciences and humanities
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Principles and basics in GIS
15:40-15:45 Coffee Break
15:45-17:00 Principles and basics in remote sensing
9:00-10:30 Acquiring and extracting spatial and environmental data: from old maps to remotely sensed data (case study)
10:30-10:45 Coffee break
10:45-12:30 Acquiring and extracting spatial and environmental data: from old maps to remotely sensed data (case study)
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:00 Integrating descriptive and quantitative data (case study)
15:00-15:15 Coffee Break
15:15-17:00 Integrating descriptive and quantitative data (case study)
9:00-11:00 Application using QGIS
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:30 Application using QGIS
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-18:00 Application using QGIS
9:00-11:00 Group work
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:30 Group work
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Group restitution
15:40-15:45 Coffee Break
15:45-18:00 Group work restitution of project

Discussion of the results and the workshops




Reading and online resources

  1. References on GIS and remote sensing in socio-environmental sciences

Ballas D., Clarke G., Franklin R. S., Newing A. (2017). GIS and the Social Sciences: Theory and Applications, Routledge, 2017.

Bishop, W. and T. H. Grubesic (2016). Geographic Information: Organization, Access, and Use, Springer.

Bodenhamer, D. J., J. Corrigan and T. M. Harris, Eds. (2010). The Spatial Humanities: GIS and The Future of Humanities Scholarship, Indiana University Press.

Brondizio, E. and R. R. Chowdhury (2010). “Spatiotemporal Methodologies in Environmental Anthropology: Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing, Landscape Changes, and Local Knowledge.” Environmental Social Sciences: Methods and Research Design. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 266-298.

Leauthaud, C., S. Duvail, G. Belaud, R. Moussa, O. Grünberger and J. Albergel (2012). “Floods and Wetlands: Combining a Water-Balance Model and Remote-Sensing Techniques to Characterize Hydrological Processes of Ecological Importance in the Tana River Delta (Kenya).” Hydrology & Earth System Sciences Discussions 9(10).

Gregory, I. N. and A. Geddes, Eds. (2014). Toward Spatial Humanities: Historical GIS and Spatial History, Indiana University Press.

Longley, P. (2005). Geographic Information Systems and Science. Chichester, West Sussex, John Wiley & Sons.

Masini, N. and F. Soldovieri (2017). Sensing The Past: From Artifact to Historical Site, Springer.

Mialhe, F., Y. Gunnell and C. Mering (2008). “Synoptic Assessment of Water Resource Variability in Reservoirs by Remote Sensing: General Approach and Application to the Runoff Harvesting Systems of South India.” Water Resources Research 44(5).

Okabe, A., Ed. (2006). GIS-based Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, CRC Press.

Pappu S., Akhilesh K., Ravindranath S., Raj U. (2010). “Applications of satellite remote sensing for research and heritage management in Indian prehistory.” Journal of Archaeological Science 37(9): 2316-2331.

Tran, A., D. Kassié and V. Herbreteau (2016). Applications of Remote Sensing to the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases: Some Examples. Land Surface Remote Sensing: Environment and Risks. N. Baghdadi and M. Zribi, Elsevier: 295-315.

  1. Links to tutorials online


  1. Links to spatial imageries, maps, GIS data source, geoportals

List to more links:

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