Information Cartography

December 18, 2009 by

Since this blogging itself is intended to shape the interaction at THATcamp, I will use it to sketch out my interests allowing us to hone in on what I am going to talk about as the event approaches. As a stake in the ground, “information cartography” captures a lot of what I do professionally, and exemplifies how I think generally. (Or at least how I think I think). The mapping metaphor has been very helpful in characterizing and/or communicating the work I do indexing oral histories, and the title itself conjures aspects of my personality, including but not limited to my general obsession with organization and my love of real-time synthesis of driving directions using a collection of appropriately scaled road atlases. (To skip ahead, scan the bullet points below and just respond if you’re into anything I’m into.)

So, as a rudimentary example of information cartography, I will map out the scope of my interests using a four-quadrant model—which came out of a recent conversation with my sister about balancing artistic endeavors with “real work”. Though I am lucky to have to great balance and even cross-over between what are generally thought to be separate worlds of work and play, defining them here is has a two-fold benefit of helping me inventory priorities and giving strangers a tour of what I think I am all about. My intention is to define four aspects of my interests loosely here, then blog separately on some or all of them subsequently and co-hone my talk with the help of some blog-loving campers. So…

“My Thing” Map, Version 1. This should actually be a Venn Diagram because these should not be mutually exclusive, however, at this phase I am specifically defining them so the separation actually appropriate:

Work Work | Work Play
Play Work  |  Play Play

Work-work – My contractually obligated, revenue generating work conducted generally 9-5 weekdays here: The big threads of interest we might want to talk about in this realm include:

  • Oral history as a Cultural, Technical, and Organizational Node in the Digital Age
  • Cataloging meets thesauri meets back-of-the-book indexing
  • Database/Software Tool Hybridization
  • Digital Literacy and/or Fearlessness
  • “Anecdata”, or What Civil Engineering and Oral History have in common

Work-play – Development-oriented highly uncertain but interesting things I keep tabs on for my employer and myself. Related threads are:

  • Visualizations
  • Human/Computer Interface Advancement
  • Luddite Confessions of a Technology Director (a.k.a. “Real work” quality check)

Play-work – are my personal/artistic non-revenue self-improvement endeavors. For me this has included:

  • Music lessons / Band Practices
  • Tai Chi Chuen, “Religion” Research
  • Chiropractic, Dietary, and/or Interrelated Health “Arts”

Things I wish I could devote more personal development time to include:

  • Computer/web programming
  • Indexing and Curation of Personal Digital Photo Collection
  • Cooking
  • Sewing
  • Construction of custom sing-along lyric-aid for play-play (digital or paper)

[Since I enrolled in classes fall of 2009, the entire Play-work category of my life has been overrun by a new category, which could be aptly labeled “work-work-work”.]

Play-play – is my fully non-work time. This includes basically socializing and music. On a good day, I have a core group of trusted friends with whom I can non-emotionally and productively discuss (in person) such topics as:

  • Evolutionary Biology with a Darwinian Dialectic Deconstructionist bent
  • “Performance” as an Essential Element of Human Existence

Music is really big in my life, but I prefer to do rather that talk or define. Here are some things I like to do:

  • Recording original music
  • Sing-along hosting/accompanying
  • Coaching / arranging vocal harmonies

But to take my mind off of things, I enjoy

  • Photography
  • Longboarding
  • Motorcycling
  • Snow Shoveling

So, if anyone wants to talk about any of these things, I’m game. I’m hoping (and assuming) that there are some unidentified connections between some of them too. Thanks for reading!


6 Responses to Information Cartography

  1. brooke on December 18, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Not a bad work-work schema!

    I surely like the idea of “Oral history as a Cultural, Technical, and Organizational Node in the Digital Age.”

    Elaborate a bit, many layers there.

  2. fvanhorne on December 23, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    I’m interested to know why and how you equate digital literacy with fearlessness.

  3. Marjorie McLellan on January 11, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    These seems a bit like the Getting Things Done type maps that include Urgent and Important, Urgent but not Important, Important but not Urgent, and Not Important and Not Urgent? The visualization of our work/play/lives in different forms seems to yield up new relationships among the data. I’m curious about approaches to visualizing or mapping and analyzing data that I work with such as life stories.

  4. […] history, oral history, or really any history I followed my curiosity into a realm I often call “Information Cartography”. I now work full time as Director of Technology at Randforce. What we do here is an evolving […]

  5. Doug Lambert on January 13, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    On Digital Literacy and Fearlessness…

    Equating digital literacy with fearlessness comes from some first hand experience with software training and observing my own interaction with computers/software over the years. From my personal end, I’ve observed my own literacy is limited not particularly by any tools I was educated in or not, but by what I’ve had time to get into to meet a particular curiosity or need. I have a general sense that I could do anything, programming and application-wise, if I had the gumption and time.

    In training others on a particular piece of software we use for indexing oral histories, we have observed that technical/computer skill sets of, say, a room full of high school teachers varies significantly. But that variability does not depend on age–though there is generally a correlation–and hence our strategy for teaching them has to be adaptable. I’ve observed that the variability falls on a continuum that I generally characterize as computer/tech fearlessness. On one end of the scale you have the fearless, to whom you can explain the broadest concepts and goals and turn them loose to bang their head against the software (i.e., little need for examples and details). On the other end, you have the more fearful, for whom step by step examples and instructions are imperative. The challenge is that the extremities often have to be instructed during the same short period of time. So I’m thinking the answer to the question “How can you teach advanced and basic literacy to a group simultaneously?” lies somewhere in the question “How do you teach/promote technology fearlessness?” Of course, we have to characterize it better first probably…

  6. […] those presented by Candace Nast, Marjorie McLellan, Andrea Odiorne, Justin Hons, Stephen Titchenal, Doug Lambert, and Phil Sager. For a quick bit of background, I currently work for Baltimore Heritage, a […]

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