From the Nominator
For this feature in the Penn Arts & Sciences magazine OMNIA, we wanted to show the ways our faculty are using maps to understand and communicate information, and evaluate it across space and time. With big data and machine learning, maps have moved beyond direction-finders to help us answer big questions about how our past still impacts us, or how the universe is expanding. At the time the feature came out, many were looking to maps to track and predict the spread of COVID-19, giving us a hook to the story. We featured an anthropological archaeologist who is digitizing images from U-2 spy missions to illuminate the distant and near past, and creating interactive digital maps for scholars and the public. A historian is showing the long-term effects of urban renewal policies by mapping data from cities large and small, from Alaska to Puerto Rico. A sociologist is illustrating neighborhood carbon footprints and a climate vulnerability index, and linking this to past redlining practices, to show climate change and the unequal experience of people feeling its effects. And an astronomer is creating vast maps of space to reveal clues to mysteries like dark matter and dark energy, how galaxies were formed, and the expansion history of the universe.
From the Judges
If there was an award for pure surprise this would win it, simply for presenting a subject that took us by surprise and delight. Big data and mapping it out, and providing a human landscape through which to conceive of this brave new world is the major success of this well-written and well-edited piece.