Maps: Past, Present, & Future Winter 2023

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Class Details

This class will examine how antique maps, created in the 15th to 20th centuries, provide lessons for modern-day map-making. We will start by considering the purposes of antique maps, especially those made in the 15th and 16th centuries by both European and Islamic mapmakers: why were they made, by whom and by what process? We will discuss “what is a map?”, as well as principles of information design, what makes a map good, and lessons that can be drawn from antique maps. Students will learn about the multitude of online resources available for collecting and studying antique maps, including collections at Williams College, and, in their first group project, will work in teams of two to four to make a presentation about an antique map or group of maps that represent the considered lessons. Throughout the course, we will pivot back and forth between antique maps and modern-day maps. We will consider the concept of strategy, which defines an organization, and the various purposes of modern-day geospatial data science, which derives from strategy, in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. We will review and discuss the tools used in geospatial data science, including analytical platforms like ArcGIS and MapBox, languages like Python, and data sources like the US Census, the HERE road network and the USGS Earth Explorer. We will review and discuss several case studies about how businesses and nonprofits utilize geospatial data science to advance their strategy. In the second group project, students will evaluate a modern-day application of geospatial data science, articulating the lessons from antique maps present in these modern-day maps, as well as any new lessons. Groups will work together to make a presentation about a modern-day map they have studied or about a modern-day map they have made themselves. Topics for group projects could include nonprofit topics like gerrymandering, redlining and climate change or for-profit topics like site selection and advertising effectiveness.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 30
Expected: NA
Class#: 1176
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Discussion and two group projects
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Mix of students with an interest in history, art, and science
Unit Notes: Tom Paper is a Williams grad '84 and Stanford MBA, Managing Partner of Webster Pacific, a strategic analytics consultancy; he is also VP of the California Map Society & Founder of The Digital Gallery, a website of exhibits of antique maps and art.
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
SLFX Winter Study Self-Expression
STUX Winter Study Student Exploration

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