November 19 symposium to focus on ‘power of maps’

An early 20th century map of the Chicago business district.When we think of maps, we often think of the transportation variety, but maps can tell us much more than how to travel from one destination to the next.

Maps hold incredible amounts of informational power and are often used in a wide variety of ways to conduct research.

Today maps help identify humanitarian needs, show trends in popular culture, guide urban planning, predict the weather and forecast the spread of disease.

To coincide with Geography Awareness Week, the NIU Department of Geography will hold a public symposium titled, “Explore! The Power of Maps”,” from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, in the auditorium at Cole Hall.

“Maps can be both thought-provoking and entertaining, while providing a large amount of data and information about the world simultaneously,” says geography professor Jim Wilson, who is organizing the symposium.

“The purpose of the symposium is to showcase how maps can be used to explore and help solve scientific and societal questions and at the same time stretch the imagination as an aesthetic form of visual communication,” Wilson adds.

Mars Global Topography
Mars Global Topography

Symposium speakers and their topics:

  • Geography professor Thomas Pingel: Helping Disaster Relief Efforts from Home: An Introduction to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team
  • Geography Ph.D. student Stephen Strader: Mapping Hazards and Their Impacts
  • Geography professor Wei Luo: Maps of Martian Valley Networks and the Northern Hypothesis
  • Rob Ridinger, faculty member, Founders Memorial Library: Colors of the World: the NIU Maps Collection
  • Geography professor Ryan James: Mapping and Planning Support Systems
  • Jenny Benisch and Clare Connelly with the Illinois State Archaeological Survey: The Johnson Collection: An Analysis of the Spatial Distribution of Projectile Point Types in Northern Illinois
  • Cartographer Amanda Carew with the NIU Geovisual Mapping Laboratory: Recreational Mapping: Examples of Bicycle and Running Maps for Personal and Public Use
  • Visiting assistant geography professor Shannon McCarragher: Maps and Popular Culture
  • Wilson: Disease and Death in Space and Time

Parking for the symposium will be available in the Visitors Lot and Parking Deck (both free after 6:30 p.m. that evening). For more information on the event, contact Wilson at jwilson41@niu.edu or Dawn Sibley at dsibley@niu.edu.

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