I lead the GISLab, which is one of three labs that constitute the URPP Language and Space at the University of Zurich. The aim of the URPP is to contribute to interdisciplinary research in the intersection of linguistics and geography. Major research questions of the GISLab are “How can linguistic diversity be explained through geographic characteristics?” and “How can geographic information in language be used to contribute to geographic research questions?”
I studied Geography from autumn 2002 until winter 2008 and finished my studies with a master degree. The foci of my studies were Geographic Information Systems and Science (GIS) and Atmospheric Sciences. I did my master thesis in GIS on the topic “What is a mountain? Where is a mountain?”. In 2010, after working two years in the public and private sector, I decided to do a PhD at the University of Zurich. The thesis was financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. In my PhD thesis, I investigated how people describe their local environment in everyday encounters and, in particular, how such descriptions can then be used in a GIS. Local information is an important building block for linking expert knowledge to the everyday concepts of lay people. I thus worked with large compilations of landscape descriptions, in the form of digitized books, social media contents, datasheets from databases and gazetters, always with the aim of creating a link between the individual descriptions and geographic space and, secondly, to gather structured information from these data sources. My thesis is therefore a combination of theories and techniques from ethnographic research, (computational) linguistics and GIS. In autumn 2013 I successfully defended my thesis.
Following are links to conference presentations and publications and the corresponding PDFs that resulted from my PhD.