New Year, New Maps
As a new academic year is upon us, I thought I'd reflect, briefly, on four years of the New Mappings Collaboratory. When Jeremy Crampton, Matt Zook, and I kicked this off, we were really just looking for a way to suture our various projects/interests/hobbies together. We knew we were taking up space in a curious place for GIScience and cartography -- given UK Geography's very specific engagements in those fields by our predecessors John Pickles and Francis Harvey (as well by our current colleagues Sue Roberts and Rich Schein) -- and we wanted to further, as Jeremy puts it, a distinct "Kentucky flavor" to those pursuits. (I think he's always playing off our association with KFC on the world scene!)
For me, this meant an opportunity to practice what I preached -- critical mapping -- and so we set about developing coursework and co-curricular opportunities that were neither (1) only courses that sharpened critical tools to disembowel maps and mapmakers nor (2) only courses that produced students-cogs in the GIS industry. We've tried to create a program that harnessed techniques, be they critical and practical (and beautiful), and the imaginative, impactful, and creative forces/inquiry of critical geography. We've pushed critical cartography into coursework for first-year students (GEO109), where we use the map as an illustration of the advance of digital culture. We've created a kind of capstone experience (GEO509) that builds community-based partnerships directly into advanced coursework in mapping/GIS. And most recently, with the help of Rich Donohue, we've re-launched both face-to-face coursework (such as GEO409) and new online courses that provide students an opportunity to practice the latest skills in interactive, web-based mapping -- albeit with a critical edge. With the help of Boyd Shearer, Ate Poorthuis, Jessi Breen, and Eric Huntley, we've re-configured our standard Intro to GIS course (GEO309) with new technologies and new experiences.
Perhaps due to the relative underdevelopment of GIScience coursework at UK Geography in the 1980s/1990s, this place is a fantastic site to pursue these re-configurations. Surely there have been bumps in the road -- and the inevitable worry, justified, by our students who feel the push to become Esri-credentialed. We're still working things out, becoming. And that's why I love working here -- the story is never quite finished.
With three-years of support from the College of Arts & Sciences, I'm so pleased to announce the launch of our Mapshop initiative, which includes a graduate research assistant and an internship program based in the "garden level" of Miller Hall. Here, I'm attempting to take the classroom-based partnerships of GEO509 and extend this support throughout the academic year. The vision for this initiative borrows extensively from my experiences with Sarah Elwood in her community-based GIS efforts at the University of Washington (U. of Arizona and Depaul U.), the fantastic work being done by Jonnell Allen Robinson in the Community Geography program at Syracuse University, and conversations with local community activist Tanya Torp.
Many thanks to our supporters, our students, and our co-conspirators. There is much work to be done. Onward.
Matthew W. Wilson