I Am Here: An Investigation into the Writer as Cartographer Metaphor

Assignment Overview

Each of the texts we are reading this semester ask us to rethink preconceived notions about the symbiotic relationships among writing, technologies, information, knowledge, and meaning-making. Beginning with Tuchi and continuing for the rest of the semester, our discussions and assignments are going to focus on visual representations of information. These visual texts fall under Turchi’s and Tufte’s conception of mapping. As Turchi suggests: “We organize information on maps in order to see our knowledge in a new way. As a result, maps suggest explanations; and while explanations reassure us, they also inspire us to ask more questions, consider other possibilities” (p. 10). The Writer as Cartographer metaphor is powerful; it brings together quite nicely a writer’s process, product, and medium of choice.

For this assignment, I would like you to create a poster-sized evidence presentation or Prezi that analyzes the mappings you create this semester in terms of the major theories discussed in the class: metaphor, mapping, information, ecology, visual rhetoric, color, classification, and many others. The presentation itself will be a map that employs many of the theories discussed in class with the goal of bringing the viewer from one space to the next in a seamless path brought together by the maps visuals, texts, themes, colors, and so on.

There are three primary goals for this assignment. First, to think about where you, as writer, are located within the mappings. Second, to suggest how information, space, and human beings interact to create some kind of meaning. Third, to create a presentation that Tufte might call beautiful evidence. Think openly and creatively. Take risks. Look for what is hidden in and missing from the graphic. Remain faithful to the meaning that emerges when analyzing your mappings in terms of the major theories discussed in the class.

Assignment Specifics

The final product will be a 54″ x 36″ poster (designed using PowerPoint) or a Prezi presentation. The textual analysis of the mappings depicted in the presentation should be no less than equal to 5 – 7 double-spaced pages (a portion of which should find its way into the presentation without your oral accompanyment). The presentation will be accompanied by a 10 minute presentation to the class. Prepare a 1 page single-spaced summary of the presentation to complement your poster presentation (12 point font, Times New Roman, 1″ margin). Make enough copies for everyone in class. Use APA formatting for all citations.

The presentation will contain the following mappings (see below for examples):

  • pencil/crayon mapping of one of your primary geographical spaces (neighborhood, Rowan, route to school, route where they run, etc.) completed in class from memory (these must be clear when in the presentation, not pixelated as many were in the blog posts)
  • Google MyMaps representation of that mapping
  • Wordle of your blog posts, including Web 2.0 and Twitter App reviews
  • Tweetstats (including the charts) and tags as Wordle
  • Twitter Top Friends Network
  • self-created mapping that attempts to connect each of these spaces together (if using Prezi, the mapping will be the order of the presentation)

The presentation must also contain at least one if the following mappings:

  • pencil, crayon mapping of your home or office workspace completed in class from memory
  • photo documentation of your home or office workspace (created using Hugin or other Photo stitching software)
  • Mapping Facebook friends using Nexus
  • Lastgraph of Last.fm listening history
  • Other mapping of personal data

The font(s) you use in the poster must be one(s) you designed using Fontstruct. The color palette you use in the poster, including the Wordle palette, must be one you designed using Kuler. If using Prezi, find a creative way to include the font into the presentation, such as a header image that you import into the Prezi. You cannot set your own fonts in Prezi.

This assignment may wind up asking you to spend money. I am trying to gain access to a poster printer here at Rowan. Several departments have one; but, it seems that those departments are not interested in sharing their resources. As a result, you may need to go to FedEx Kinkos (or other office printing store) to print and laminate your poster. Costs can run to $50 per print so please be sure that your poster is exactly correct prior to printing it out. If paying for the print will be a strain on you financially, please see me ASAP.

Images need special consideration when preparing and printing a poster of this size. Small and low resolution images (such as screen shots) will appear pixilated when printed. As a result, all images need to have a resolution of at the very least 150dpi. I suggest adjusting them to 300dpi to be safe. Photoshop and Fireworks, which are available on all Rowan university computers, can be used to adjust image resolution. For a nice tutorial on how to use Photoshop to adjust dpi, see http://www.ryancdavidson.com/web/tt_screencaptoprint.php.

For more information on how to set up an effective poster presentation (including PowerPoint setup and ideas for images) see

Note that the above links were written to specific audiences. Only use information relating to setting up, composing, and viewing the poster. Other info, such as printing costs do not apply.

For information presentations, see: Reynolds, G. (2008). Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Assignment Due Dates

March 2: Pencil sketch of personal geography
March 30: Google MyMaps of personal geography due
April 20: Font using Fonstruct
April 20: Color Palette using Kuler
April 20: Poster/Prezi Draft Due
May 4: Poster/Prezi Final Draft Due
May 11: Final Paper Due

How-Tos and Examples

Google MyMaps Tutorial

Wordle of blog posts:

Tweetstats:

Twitter friends network:

Facebook friends represented by Nexus:

LastGraph visualization of Last.fm listening history:

Example of how to structure analysis of graphic (click to enlarge):

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