University of Oklahoma | Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability

Distinguished Speaker Series

April 2018

The Experimental Geography Studio is delighted to present the first two speakers of the ongoing Distinguished Speaker Series. Our first talks will feature two speakers with unique views on cartography and modeling tools.


Jake Coolidge is a cartographer at the national parks service and will be giving a talk on his career path and what led him to the place that he is at today.

Maria McVarish is an architect, artist, and visual researcher practicing in San Francisco who will be giving a talk on modern day advances in digital modeling tools and their applications to geography.


Both speakers will host workshops and office hours in the days following their talks, where they will share their knowledge and give students advice.



"(Slightly) off the beaten path: the design of a cartographic career"

By Jake Coolidge

Wednesday, April 18th, 3-4pm, in the Helmerich Collaborative Learning Center (LL118), 

Bizzell Memorial Library

Jake Coolidge, a cartographer at the National Park Service, will discuss how design thinking and the development of an individual cartographic voice have played key roles in the evolution of his mapmaking practice. Seldom working exclusively in one medium or style of mapmaking, he has examined cartographic design problems from multiple angles, responding to the affordances and constraints of media as disparate as interactive web maps to maps drawn with ink on paper. Coolidge will plot his unique career path in a broad arc, closely examining key works he has completed along the way and specific design choices made for each. In addition, he will discuss important threads that connect and inform these works, not least of which is the agency of the individual in shaping a map's outcome, which can be applied with humility and respect to create compelling and responsible maps.



Landscape Narrativity in 3DH: Questions for an Experimental Geography

By Maria McVarish

Monday, April 23rd, 3-4pm, in the Helmerich Collaborative Learning Center (LL118),

Bizzell Memorial Library

An extraordinary array of digital modeling tools have come into mainstream use within the last few decades. Most, like Geographic Information System mapping technologies, originated in the social and physical sciences, where ‘data’ are conceived quantitatively. While digital humanists have probed and challenged these tools, many have bemoaned the positivist premises that undergird them. In part because empirically-oriented digital tools are now able to make appealing visual arguments out of historically un-sexy numbers, places, names and dates, software developers have begun to turn their attention to what these tools cannot metabolize directly. The constraints their algorithms impose on data are perhaps best exemplified in connection with the narrative form. After reviewing a sampling of contemporary digital story-telling platforms,  I will try to work through some promising developments for digital narrativity in 3DH (a.k.a. digital humanities in the ‘third’ dimension) – in which a group of scholars are re-conceiving digital tools with an eye to humanities research, designing softwares, codes, platforms and tools that give visual form to ambiguity, contradiction, interpretation, argument and critique, among other non-empiricist concerns. If realized, these new frameworks could revolutionize how we study the social construction of landscape, reinvigorating debates over contested claims to place and heritage, the relationality of space, the meanings and effects of social forces on and in the physical environment, and much more. This lecture builds on the 3DH community’s attempts to re-imagine digital research and communication technologies, inventing tools that will bring new methodologies to scholarship in the geo-humanities.




Mapping Workshop: Exercises in Analog Cartography

By Jake Coolidge

Friday, April 20th, 1.30-3pm in The Experimental Geography Studio,

Sarkeys Energy Center, room 543

In this one-hour workshop, participants will engage in some fundamental cartographic activities with quick pencil sketches on paper (no prior drawing proficiency is required!). In the first part of the workshop we'll sketch out designs for basic map symbols from provided prompts. For the second part, we'll apply our new symbols as we sketch maps from real sources at different scales, experiencing first-hand the processes of abstraction, generalization, and inclusion/exclusion at the heart of mapmaking. Supplies will be provided, but if you have a favorite pencil, feel free to bring it with you.


Brainstorming in 3DH: A Case Study

By Maria McVarish

Tuesday, April 24th, 12-1.30pm in The Experimental Geography Studio,

Sarkeys Energy Center, room 543

This workshop focuses on ways of engaging readers in new and different relationships with place. In a draft dissertation chapter up for discussion, I deploy a range of ‘research fiction’ strategies to probe the line separating the ‘historical’ from the ‘visible’ in a given rural landscape. The goal of the event will be to exchange ideas, priorities, wishes and concerns regarding the future of digital geo-humanities, using the text as a foil for speculation.


Office Hours


Office hours are, 30-minute-long, discussions for individuals or small groups that have a personal project, or project idea, that they are working on but need help finding a direction, what software to use and so on.


Jake Coolidge

Thursday, April 19th, 10am-12pm

Friday, April 20th, 10am-12pm

Sign up:


Maria McVarish

Monday, April 23rd, 10am -12pm

Tuesday, April 24th, 9-11am

Sign Up:


Past Events

Read up on our past events and speakers here