30 years of cartographic modeling later, Dana Tomlin retires

This year, Dana Tomlin is retiring from the Department of Landscape Architecture in the Weitzman School of Design, where he has taught courses in cartographic modeling for thirty years. A beloved educator and respected pioneer in geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping, Tomlin has received the Perkins and Lindback Awards for Distinguished Teaching at the Weitzman School.

A landscape of Dana Tomlin’s face that appears to be block cut.
Dana Tomlin, professor emeritus of landscape architecture. (Image: Weitzman School of Design)

On September 29, the Weitzman School will host A Celebration of A Life Visualizing Complex Information to honor Tomlin on the occasion of his retirement. Here, he speaks about the evolution of mapping technology and its growing importance in daily life, using geospatial data to guide decision making, and his split interests in the art and science of map making.

Tomlin reflects on the shift in maps to graphics and a digital interface in the early years of computing, and how mapping technology can shape the future, as seen with COVID mapping throughout the pandemic.

“The ability to affect behavior is profound, particularly to the extent that it is not direct. It is not frontal,” he says. “We are at a point where the use of maps as media to compel is not nearly so powerful as the use of maps to simply navigate, to simply tell us about the weather, or crime statistics, or the market value of real estate, or health conditions. The sort of thing that we’ve done for decades with traffic prediction and traffic helicopters—imagine the same sort of thing being done for weather, crime, health, real estate. How does that improve in the future? Clearly, it’s by doing away with the expert and replacing the expert with observations about actual human behavior.”

Read more at Weitzman News.