Monday, October 15, 2012

Mapping The Visual Beyond The Visible - IVLA 2012

Source: IVLA
We just returned from the 44th Annual Conference of the International Visual Literacy Association in Portland, Maine. This gathering created an exciting opportunity for top professionals from disparate disciplines to shape the evolving field of visual study. The IVLA conference was a balance between professors presenting traditional white papers and educators sharing new media. In talking to IVLA board members, we learned that by its own admission the organization is at a crossroads. The association is negotiating an identity crisis as it welcomes the emerging technological streams of visual information and still maintains its peer-reviewed, scholarly standing.

We enjoyed getting to know new like-minded friends, such as Richard Emanuel, Associate Professor of Communication at Alabama State University, and we hope to stay in touch to exchange ideas and resources. One of the conclusions that became apparent in talking to our new colleagues is that for many academics, the ultimate definition of "visual literacy" is still a work in progress, notably in the ever-marching world of digital image interactions.

Source: IVLA

A highlight of the conference was Friday's keynote address from Rob Edsall, Associate Professor of Geography and Earth Science, Communication and Digital Media at Carthage College. Edsall stressed that maps by definition are distortions of reality, requiring as critical a lens as text, and that iconographic "maps in the wild" reveal untold stories of power and culture.

Another high point was the riveting talk from Patricia Search, former IVLA President, accomplished artist, and Professor of Language, Literature, and Communication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Search opened our eyes to the semiotics of space in new augmented-reality applications, which may be obstructing the very environments they seek to enhance.

Source: ASIDE, 2012
Thursday evening's tour of the Maine College of Art (MECA) introduced us to a fantastic, below-the-radar gem of a school. The high-ceilinged, beam-and-brick facility in a former department store offers individual spaces for students at work and emphasizes creative problem solving. We especially appreciated our conversation with President Don Tuski, who described MECA's efforts at keeping student costs low and involving the community in coursework.

Source: ASIDE, 2012
We would like to thank everyone who attended our presentations on "Visually Mapping Marks of Content" and "Designing Information: Infographics As Visual Literacy." We would also like to thank our gracious hosts at the Osher Map Library of the University Of Southern Maine, particularly Jeff Beaudry, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, who in warm humor gave us first names when we needed them most.

If you happen to be in the Portland area, we highly recommend dining among Old Port's cobblestones. Gritty McDuff's is still the best for a post-workshop ale, and Five Fifty-Five steams the savoriest cherry pepper mussels. The Old Port Sea Grill also prepares a meaty hake with clams, and both spots highlight the briny freshness of Maine's local oysters. A shout-out, too, goes to our buddy Vin and his mom, who played tour guides and made us feel like locals.

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