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‘Places and Spaces’ displays smart art

An audience eagerly listens to the keynote talk during the inauguration of the Places & Spaces exhibit at Glasgow Hall in the School of Architecture on Thursday. Hallee Meltzer // Assistant Photo Editor

An audience eagerly listens to the keynote talk during the inauguration of the Places & Spaces exhibit at Glasgow Hall in the School of Architecture on Thursday. Hallee Meltzer // Assistant Photo Editor

This fall, “Places and Spaces,” a cross-disciplinary exhibit displayed in the School of Architecture’s Glasgow Hall and the first two floors of Richter Library, joins the Lowe Art Museum as another on-campus venue for artistic display.

The exhibit, which was started in 2004 by a group led by curator Katy Borner, features 100 scientific maps that she and her team spent the last 10 years gathering. Borner spoke about the idea behind “Places and Spaces” during the exhibit’s opening reception on Sept. 4 in Glasgow Hall.

“The exhibition is very much like a journal, but instead of publishing a set of papers, you publish a set of maps each year,” Borner said in an interview with The Miami Hurricane. “Researchers, practitioners, students, professors and other people from around the globe submit maps, we have reviews and then a set of 10 maps is selected. We then work closely with the mapmakers to make them more understandable to a general audience.”

The opening reception was the first in a series of talks and seminars that will be occurring throughout the semester to accompany the exhibit. The presentations are open to students and will feature world-renowned speakers regarding the mapping of science.

As well as appealing to science students, the maps catch the attention of graphic designers and communication students, such as Yiren Zhu, a second-year journalism graduate student.

“The maps are definitely going to be a good source of inspiration,” Zhu said. “In terms of student work we usually just start from scratch and have no idea of what to do. When we see masterpieces by attending exhibits like this one, you can have an idea of what professionals are doing.”

The idea behind the exhibition originated during a breakfast at a convention for the American Association of Geographers. Borner and her group realized that most people have no idea what science maps are and how to use them for daily decision-making. The committee then established the goal of showing the maps to the rest of the world.

This is no small project. Every year, up to 80 maps are submitted to the reviewing board for consideration, and only ten make the final cut. A decade of work has resulted in a collection of maps big enough to fill two sides of a football field.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, the 100 images in Places and Spaces are worth millions,” said Thomas J. LeBlanc, UM’s executive vice president and provost, when he introduced Borner on Thursday. “Data visualization turns spreadsheets into stories, arranging rows and columns of data into images that make complex ideas easy to understand.”

Sawsan Khuri, director of engagement at UM’s Center for Computational Science (CCS) and one of the sponsors for the exhibit, explained the important role the lecture series will play for students interested in getting involved with projects such as this one.

“These talks will help kickstart or catalyze visualization stories that are happening here, at the University of Miami,” Khuri said. “This is an incredible example of cross-campus collaboration. I don’t know how many times that happens, either at UM or at any other university.”

Students from all three UM campuses will be encouraged to submit their own data visualization maps to the CCS and will be able to present them as opening acts to “Places and Spaces” seminars. These visualizations will then have an exhibit of their own next semester. Students who are interested in submitting should contact Alberto Cairo at a.cairo@miami.edu for more information.

September 8, 2014

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Sophie Barros


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