Presner et al expose the idea of “hypercities.” Their idea is to create a sort of internet which can be virtually walked through rather than viewed; one that would expose layers of history connected to one single point. They mention the idea of “thick maps” as a way of accomplishing this, in which maps have many different layers. Right now, we tend to think of maps as something static and unchanging. Presner et al are proposing a paradigm shift to which a single map would actually constitute many different maps. Each map offers a new shade of meaning to the geographical area – it may be from a different time, for a different set of eyes, etc. The idea of this, then, is to allow the viewer to explore the area from a more holistic perspective and be able to see it through the eyes of many different people who might have lived there in times past.
This is useful to our study because we are creating a similar type of system, albeit a much smaller one, on the musical geography website. It is, of course, confined to music in the 20s, but even within those constraints, there are many different layers available for exploration regarding different composers, performances, schools of thought, etc. The hope with this is that we can create an accurate, more in-depth picture of the musical culture of Paris in the 20s in which the user can actually “walk through” Paris in a sense and know what it was like to live there.
In a larger sense, though, this type of thinking can prove useful to music (or other) historians because it helps contextualize historical developments. It might reveal geographical trends which were not evident elsewhere. It might also reveal trends through time (since these are “thick maps” that incorporate many different time periods). In general, though, it can help give a more accurate, dynamic picture of the times and places that historians study.