Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) is holding a one-day conference on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 on “Geographic Representation NOW.” This is an effort, as I understand it, to explore the field of critical/new geographies and especially critical cartographies. Harvard is looking to increase its presence in this area following the recent hire of Neil Brenner as Professor of Urban Theory, and their interests in rebuilding mapping (I was contacted by Neil and Charles Waldheim at Harvard a while ago and was able to recommend some people they might want to bring in for the Friday meeting.)
My colleague Matt Wilson will be presenting on “A Present History of Critical GIS.” Matt will discuss some new developments at Kentucky, including our “New Mappings Collaboratory [click on geography] which we will formally announce next week.
Harvard of course has seen its fair share of involvement with geography, first with being infamously canceled, then its post-war pioneering of early GIS and ODYSSEY* at the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis (written up by Nick Chrisman, who was there, in his book Charting the Unknown), and now with the GSD.
Harvard certainly has the resources to make a major effort in this direction and will allay some fears about its critical theoretic credentials by hiring Brenner (a co-author with Stuart Elden of an important book on Lefebvre). There are many in geography who associate them with the purely negative, and it will be interesting to see how they build up critical-theoretic approaches to space. (See next post for Brenner’s inaugural lecture at Harvard.)
*Rumor has it that Jack Dangermond, who was a student at Harvard and spent a year in the lab, went off to California with the hardware and software in his car (“in his trunk” according to my informant), where he started up Esri with it. Funnily enough, in 1971 Dangermond was offered the Director’s job at the Harvard Lab only two years after he founded Esri. He declined and the rest is history.