I realize in horror that I have not posted anything for several months… Blogging time is no regular time (it seems like I blogged only yesterday) and it can give the false impression that nothing has been happening at all. Quite the opposite, I would say, as in the last few months, I have relocated from Sheffield to Paris (and in the process got the whole deposit for my apartment refunded, something you have to give credit to British letting agents for, as it would NEVER EVER EVER happen in France), started a new job I won’t dwell upon but that keeps me busy and interested, continued writing papers on my English research and, together with friends and colleagues, started a new, exciting research project called Cat_Mat. The only bad thing about this project is that the English acronym does not sound so great. I suspect quite a few people will be lost in translation.
January will bring, hopefully, a few changes to this blog: maybe a few more photographs of Egypt, where we’re heading again; and a new, strong New Year’s resolution of blogging more regularly. I wish.
Over the last two days, I have had a brief flashback to teaching as I did a workshop on computer cartography for my Waste of the World colleagues. The workshop went really well and it was a pleasure to don my old « teaching » gown again. The setting was much less formal than what I am accustomed to and that was for the best. I have taught computer-assisted map making regularly since I was a PhD student and I am very impressed, every time, by the power of those simple tools – Adobe Illustrator and PhilCarto.
For the Waste of the World, the issue of mapping is highly significant because of the strong visual component of the programme. Waste is intricate and mapping helps clarify ideas: in a sense, mapping becomes an exploratory tool on its own device. This of course will be no news for the regular users of PhilCarto in France, but as the programme’s instruction manual has not been translated into English, its diffusion in the English-speaking world is fairly limited. To make things worse, cartography is not widely taught in the UK anymore. Mapmapking is now outsourced to specialist cartographers within departments. Academic staff (in human geography at least) may engage critically with maps,but generally don’t make any. So in a way, what I did over the last two days was a kind of knowledge transfer. Or a flashback into the past of the discipline.
To update the lectures I used to give at the Ecole normale and get the technical terms right, I used Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS by John Krygier and Denis Wood. It’s a very good book, very useful and didactic . GIS has a lot to answer for the loss of currency of graphical semiology and the book is an excellent contribution to restoring a sense of what a good map is. I highly recommend it. And I also launch an appeal to all experienced Adobe lllustrator users: a guide to making maps using AI is long overdue. It would be so helpful to have that kind of book at hand! Maybe I’ll have a go at it when I get the time, but I won’t object to anybody more expert than me doing so beforehand… Raymond, maybe? Allez, Raymond, s’il vous plaît!
A new working paper entitled « The social dynamics of water pollution » is available on the Waste of the World website (in PDF). Any comments/criticism very welcome!
Update, 17/12/2009: This WP has been published with significant changes in the Journal of Historical Geography.