Jump to content

 
Photo

Critique in teaching cartography

- - - - -

  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1
natcase

natcase

    Ultimate Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 572 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Interests:cartography
    aeshetics
    cartographic design
    John Bartholomew
    road maps
    large-scale mapping
  • United States

I'm ruminating on the idea of a workshop on critique, either at NACIS or as traveling thing. It's a topic I'm interested in, having seen how valuable a good critique can be in seeing one's work freshly and more clearly. I'd love to hear from folks who either teach cartography now (or information design) with critique, or who have experienced good critiques. What makes a critique more or less useful, to the critiquer, critiquee, and the audience? Does this change as you advance in your career? All thoughts welcome, and I also welcome comments via private message if confidentiality is an issue.

Thanks.

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#2
David Medeiros

David Medeiros

    Hall of Fame

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,085 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Redwood City CA
  • Interests:Cartography, wood working, wooden boats, fishing, camping, overland travel, exploring.
  • United States

I've given guest lectures on cartography and written a lot on general topics of cartographic design (emphasis on design for GIS), and always stress the importance of peer review. Even the most talented cartographers will eventually get "cartographer's eye", where you have been looking at your work for so many hours that your mind begins to see the map you intend to make and not necessarily the one you have made. It often takes fresh eyes to see some of the most obvious or common mistakes.

Apart from simple review for errors and omissions, peer review is a great way to get new ideas. Not everyone is good at taking criticism of course and it can be tough to hear what people think of your work, you just have to understand that most of these design suggestions are opinion and related more to personal style than bad choices on the cartographers part.

The most valuable aspect to peer review though is not in receiving but in giving it. Looking over others work for design faults or just personal style changes really helps you grow as a map maker and develop your sense of what your personal style is and why. Again, looking at your own work it can often be difficult to make decisions about how to proceed with certain design choices. But looking over others work it is often immediately apparent what you like or what you would change. I think of peer review as much a personal exercise for yourself as it is a benefit to the work being reviewed.

The pitfall in reviewing is of course thinking that your design ideas are the best or only way to go and presenting them as such. Diplomacy rules in critical review. Never hold back an opinion but always approach design advice with a friendly tone and express ideas as choices with potential benefits and possibly costs. Human nature is to react defensively to criticism so its best to defuse that as much as possible. On the part of the person being reviewed its always best to avoid over explaining your choices if you disagree with a review, again this sets up a co0nfornational exchange. Better to just let it sink in, offer some explanation as necessary but don't get into a lengthy discussion of what may be right or wrong in your map design.

I think Imhof is the guy who said "A solution to a problem in math is either right or wrong, but a solution to a cartographic problem is only good or bad".

You might find some other ideas on the topic here: http://www.cartotalk...?showtopic=5843

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 


#3
Gretchen Peterson

Gretchen Peterson

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 238 posts
  • United States

Teaching cartography through critique is one of the best ways to learn, and it is also one of the best ways to make a person feel horrible. To avoid these hard feelings, it is wise to make a strong statement at the beginning about how it isn't to be taken personally (and the other things that David said in the previous post).

Also, make it very clear that everyone is at a different level and that's okay. If you have a student that has had no prior design experience, then naturally their work will be more heavily critiqued than the more experienced students. Don't assume that all students are starting at the same level of experience, even if they are 18 years old. By that time, some have taken art classes since they were 4, or participated in their mom's architectural firm as an apprentice, or who knows what. Then there will be 18 year olds with no design experience at all. Perhaps these students focused on math and science and only just recently switched course. They are the ones to encourage; make them realize that they can get as good as the others if they manage not to take crits personally.

As far as the method goes, my landscape architecture classes in college were somewhat brutal: everyone pins their finished work on the front wall, sits down facing them, and rips them apart (figuratively). :) I'm not sure if that's the method you plan to use, but if you do, just preface it with all the things I've mentioned above.

#4
Strebe

Strebe

    Key Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 82 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:Map projections. Snobby chocolate. Science in general.
  • United States

I find that articulating what I’m thinking to an audience forces me to lucidity. I become conscious of where I have rationalized or overlooked weaknesses. Insight flows serendipitously, helping me find solutions to lingering problems then as well.

This stimulation of lucidity works even if the audience does not actively critique. I have pretty thick skin, so I’m fine when they do, but I know a lot of people get their souls crushed by criticism. Perhaps people critiquing their own work to an audience who merely asks clarifying questions could be a useful technique. I do not think it would work for the sort of person who imagines “he” is always right (but neither would it hurt). Nor would it work for people who are too anxious to present (but they can simply opt out).

Best,
— daan Strebe

#5
razornole

razornole

    Legendary Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 452 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ozark Plateau, Arkansas
  • Interests:Photography, Cartography, Down-river canoeing, Backpacking, Cross country biking, Geomorphology, Ornithology, Ecology, Quaternary, and last but first; drinking beer on the beach.
  • United States

I couldn't imagine finishing a map that hasn't been critiqued/vetted. If I can't find a local colleague, or someone's opinion whom I trust, then I will post on cartotalk to get a critique. To me it is like submitting a journal article that hasn't been peer reviewed.

The vetting process for me in graduate school could be brutal at times. It was my professor's goal to get rid of 5 students after the first weekly vetting process. His theory was if they can't take negative criticism of their work then they don't need to be in cart. For me, the vetting taught me something valuable, and that was to know what I did, but more importantly, why I did it. For example, If someone said that green looks like puke, I would be able to answer that it is the PMS color of my client's company and I wanted my map to tie in with their mark.

If that helps,
kru
"Ah, to see the world with the eyes of the gods is geography--to know cities and tribes, mountains and rivers, earth and sea, this is our gift."
Strabo 22AD

#6
DaveB

DaveB

    Hall of Fame

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,054 posts
  • Gender:Not Telling
  • Location:Redlands, CA
  • United States

I agree with many of the previous comments. One thing I like to hear or include is not only the what, but also the why. Articulating design principles in general and ones specific to cartography and to the map in question. Critique sessions seem to me a good time to reinforce some concepts, such as figure/ground, desgning for your audience, etc. And don't only pick on the errors, "bad" design choices, and such, but also point out the good things.
Dave Barnes
Esri
Product Engineer
Map Geek

#7
DaveB

DaveB

    Hall of Fame

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,054 posts
  • Gender:Not Telling
  • Location:Redlands, CA
  • United States

It was my professor's goal to get rid of 5 students after the first weekly vetting process. His theory was if they can't take negative criticism of their work then they don't need to be in cart.

I don't understand that concept. It seems like a good professor would find ways to teach and bring the students "up to snuff" rather than intentionally trying to force some students out.
(sorry, minor rant)
Dave Barnes
Esri
Product Engineer
Map Geek

#8
natcase

natcase

    Ultimate Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 572 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Interests:cartography
    aeshetics
    cartographic design
    John Bartholomew
    road maps
    large-scale mapping
  • United States

Thanks all. I need to chew this over some more...

I've been reflecting on the story of how Stephen Sondheim really learned how to write musicals. He was school friends with Oscar Hammerstein's son (or nephew or something) and took to hanging out at the great man's house. His senior year, he wrote a musical about life at his high school, and took it all proud and pleased and showed it to Mr Hammerstein. The elder stopped and said, essentially, "It's garbage. Do you want to know why it's garbage?" Sondheim swallowed his pride, said yes, and says he learned more about how to write a musical in that one afternoon than he learned in another 10 years of working in the trade.

That's my platonic ideal of a great critique, and it requires a few things:

- There has to be honest and heartfelt respect for the critiquer by the critiqued. You have to honestly believe the whole "I am the master, you are the student thing." The more cynical the critiqued is about the critiquer, the more the critiqued will be trying to construct arguments instead of really listening to what is said.

- The critique has to be about the work, not about the creator. That's the other direction: the critiquer has to be trying to get good work out of the critiqued, and not just but him/her in their place. And the critiqued needs to get into that mindframe too: looking at the work and its potential, not their poor bruised ego.

- There needs to be a common sense of cultural context: if Sondheim had been trying to write rock-and-roll hits, Hammerstein's critique would have been much less useful.

- The critique needs to go into technique: not just "this isn't working" but "there's a process that will make this work better." You need to give the critiqued reference to the right tools.

There's probably more, but that's kind of what I was getting at.

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#9
P.Raposo

P.Raposo

    Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPip
  • 47 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Penn State
  • United States

Neat idea. I agree with much of what's been said, particularly the part about how it needs to be clear to students (particularly folks not already familiar with academic critique) that the criticisms are about the work, and not about the content of their character.

I like the idea of everyone being able to listen in on critiques for the work of others, as long as students realize the value of observing; reminds me of a favorite saying: "Learn from the mistakes of others, you may not live long enough to make them all yourself." A group setting can also help people make their own conceptions of what's good form more malleable, simply by being exposed to the work and style of others and being asked to appraise it. Interesting, also, if people had a common assignment, and then saw and critiqued the varied responses to it.

One suggestion: a valuable part of the course could focus on how to give good critique. Good criticism comes from a desire to help the critiqued do better, to everyone's (i.e., cartography's) benefit. I think people can get petty when they don't have a big-picture purpose like that. Also, I think there are few good critics often because they point out faults (or even assert faults when in fact they're describing things that amount to only personal disagreement) without describing alternatives or paths to improvement.

Cheers,
P

#10
razornole

razornole

    Legendary Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 452 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ozark Plateau, Arkansas
  • Interests:Photography, Cartography, Down-river canoeing, Backpacking, Cross country biking, Geomorphology, Ornithology, Ecology, Quaternary, and last but first; drinking beer on the beach.
  • United States

It was my professor's goal to get rid of 5 students after the first weekly vetting process. His theory was if they can't take negative criticism of their work then they don't need to be in cart.

I don't understand that concept. It seems like a good professor would find ways to teach and bring the students "up to snuff" rather than intentionally trying to force some students out.
(sorry, minor rant)


Sorry it was a curt response. We had a cart lab with 20 stations, and typical class would have about 30 students cause deans from other colleges would overwrite the 20 maximum for the class. He was typically trying to get rid of the students who tried to make their maps an hour before the deadline.

I guess his approach was quality vs quantity.

kru
"Ah, to see the world with the eyes of the gods is geography--to know cities and tribes, mountains and rivers, earth and sea, this is our gift."
Strabo 22AD

#11
natcase

natcase

    Ultimate Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 572 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Interests:cartography
    aeshetics
    cartographic design
    John Bartholomew
    road maps
    large-scale mapping
  • United States

Thanks all, this has been very helpful.

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com






0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

-->