Geographic Representation

Geographic Representation
Image source: Else/where Mapping New Cartographies of Networks and Territories, Janet Abrams, Peter Hall, Eds.


We now have unprecedented access and capacity to process digital and spatial information. Equally exceptional is our technological means to store and analyze the content of this data, which far exceeds our own cognitive limits. However, humans do have exceptional visual capabilities and can find novel patterns in data that computer algorithms can miss. How can we employ cartography, GIS, spatial analysis and visual information design to explore and communicate pressing issues through scales that may be outside of our unaided perception?


DPI co-founder Dave Flanders will be teaching a cross-listed graduate / undergraduate course to explore these questions in UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture this summer. Throughout the course, called Geographic Representation, we will work as a class to create visual narratives that research, unpack and understand complex spatial phenomena. Geographic Representation will build on prerequisite technical and analytical GIS skills with an emphasis on the formation of research questions, data collection and exploration, and the representation and communication of spatial information. As part of the course, we will attend an information design and visualization exhibition in June.


In Geographic Representation, we will work as a class to create visual narratives that research, unpack and understand complex spatial phenomena. Over the course of a semester, students will work extensively with techniques of geospatial analysis in GIS. Using ESRI’s ArcMap software or the open source alternative, Quantum GIS, we will explore data sources, data models, topological overlays, map algebra, spatial statistics, terrain analysis, and suitability modeling, among others. The analysis will take us across the globe as well as in our own backyard. We will address the visualization of spatial analysis in its various forms using a suite of visual analytics tools, Illustrator and Photoshop. We will also treat mapping as an active part of the research process – where exploration of spatial data provides the context for exploring complex spatial questions using visual narratives.



  1. Provide students with structured, supervised time to gain more experience using GIS in ways applicable to their studios, graduate design projects and professional practice
  2. Experience identifying geographic and spatial topics to research and explore
  3. Learn how to search for and access GIS data appropriate to research questions, and match this data to appropriate spatial analyses
  4. Use GIS and other software to explore and structure data and represent topics across scales from the local to the global
  5. Represent and communicate research findings based on principles of visual analytics, visualization, and cartography

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