Dana Tomlin

Now for a Look at the Weather Where You Are

We live in a world where much of what we know about things is affected by the manner in which those things are represented in digital form.  In fact, our interaction with that world itself in increasingly influenced by the manner in which it is seen through through the eyes of geospatial technology.  Most of this technology still casts the world in terms of maps, and much of it does so by mapping “where” for each of a set of “whats.”  The less common alternative to this feature-oriented view is a field-oriented perspective that maps “what” for each of a set of “wheres.”  From this perspective, the presence of discrete objects is regarded as a quality of the space(s) they occupy, a quality not unlike distance, direction, density, intensity, likelihood, magnitude, or anything else that might vary continuously from one location to another.  While that degree of generality can make it possible to address a broader range of spatial phenomena than might otherwise be possible, it can also demand a broader conceptual attitude toward those phenomena.  The purpose of this presentation will be to describe and encourage that attitude.

Dana Tomlin

Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Dana Tomlin has managed to avoid real work for several decades now by instead pursuing a hobby that was first acquired as a graduate student here in Cambridge and which has since been sustained by professorships at Harvard, Yale, Penn, and Ohio State.  As designer of one of the earliest geographic information systems and originator of the Map Algebra language that is embodied in much of today’s image-processing software, Tomlin has long been an active player in this field.