All lectures are presented fully online via Zoom every Friday at 3:30 PM. The link to join the meeting is https://uwmadison.zoom.us/j/99623736476 except when otherwise indicated. Brown bag sessions start at noon on the days there are speakers. Alumni, friends and the public are always invited to attend.
Spring 2020 Lectures
January 31 - Risky subjects: vulnerability and uncertainty in the global pesticide boom
Globally, pesticide use is increasing significantly faster than food production. The vast majority of the world's food producers depend on pesticides, and most of those users live in the global south. I present data from Northern Laos, until recently among the world's lowest per capita pesticide users, to explore the everyday life of pesticides and commodity agriculture as it transforms forests, local livelihoods and health. Using oral histories, and socio-economic surveys, I look at the relationship between modern agriculture, vulnerability, and deforestation as old forest-based safety nets are ploughed under for maize to feed growing meat consumption in China and Vietnam. I interrogate the diverse -- and divergent -- set of partial knowledges among pesticide users, and ask how small scale farmers' direct experiences of toxicity both reinforce and transgress the international model for safe use. I describe the ways that what counts as 'risky' and 'safe' is locally adapted, filtered through rural community dynamics, and bound up with the other risks farmers are facing - the risks of living at the precarious end of a global commodity chain.
February 7 - Data science approaches to improve water prediction and communication at the U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Geological Survey
Data growth and computational advances have created new opportunities to improve water resource predictions and the delivery of water information to managers and the public. The U.S. Geological Survey's Water Data Science Branch has three primary goals: 1) improve predictions by combining theory-based models with machine learning, 2) create raw-data to decision-ready workflows that are reproducible, 3) share insights with innovative and thoughtful data visualizations. This talk will focus on the development and application of "process-guided deep learning" towards predicting water temperatures in surface waters. PGDLs are hybrid models that integrate process understanding into advanced machine learning modeling techniques; research on PGDLs and other hybrid modeling approaches continues to be a major research component of the USGS Water Data Science Branch.
February 14 - Lady Dynamite's Spatialization of Bipolar Disorder
Miami University, Oxford
Depictions of those with mental health issues often frame them in terms of pathology and deficit. However, the neurodiverse may have other ways to frame their experiences and understandings of 'reality'. Loosely autobiographical (based on the life of comedian Maria Bamford), Lady Dynamite explores the everyday and fantastical aspects of living with bipolar disorder. The Netflix series navigates the spaces of bipolar disorder (both mania and depression) in its episodes and depicts bipolar disorder as complex, yet manageable, rather than something to fear. This series is a critical narrative to help in understandings of the lived experience of those with neurodiversity. Scenes within the show illustrate the complicated workings of bipolar minds and often depict hallucinations (that once were private) as a shared visual between the show and audience. Institutionalized spaces are juxtaposed with surreal spaces to disrupt traditional narratives of time and space. The series and its depiction of mental health changes the script on bipolar disorder by focusing on normalcy of the protagonist's life. As such, this portrayal of mental illness demonstrates a new and positive way to discuss visual manifestations and norming of bipolar disorder.
February 21 - Mapping and data visualization at The Washington Post
The Washington Post
At the Washington Post, reporters across the newsroom cover an array of topics, from politics to climate change to natural disasters, all of which involve conveying complex information to a broad audience. How this reporting is communicated, through text, graphics and maps, or photo and video, makes all the difference in disseminating reporters' findings. Graphics reporter and cartographer Lauren Tierney will discuss how the graphics team at the Post utilizes the power of visuals to communicate complex data and concepts to readers, using maps, graphics, and illustrations. She will also demonstrate how the graphics team works with scientists and experts from a variety of academic fields to communicate research visually to a broad audience.
February 28 - Defending Psychic Space: Blues Club Patrons Strike Out
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Blues clubs today in Chicago's largely African-American, poor South Side feel the winds of transformation as the city's redevelopment frontier moves through this city section. Yet this calculated foray to transform the city's poorest, most neglected, and stigmatized blocks and clubs is being met with a sly, subterranean resistance. My talk chronicles this resistance, focusing on the realities of a paradigmatic South Side club, Beebe's. Long-term patrons, in particular, work through poverty and de-humanization at every turn to constitute a coveted club and social space using multiple, interconnecting templates (material concerns, race-class identity-making, the drive for social enrichment). They seek to build space and personhood here in response to a major force: to chase away haunts that have been structured by historically persistent regimes of socio-spatial isolation, identity afflicting, human containment to shadowy city sections, and their recent placement within punishing neoliberal sensibilities. The results take us beyond the now standard story of such redevelopment machines as being blunt producers of redevelopment and equally important, as engaging power-bereft people on the ground.
March 6 - Civic Colonialism: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Municipal Annexation in Arizona
Anthony Pratcher II
Carnegie Mellon University
Scholars have overlooked how urban annexation drove the development of the metropolitan
Sunbelt in the American Southwest after World War II. A case study on civic life in 20th century
Phoenix shows how Anglo elites utilized municipal annexation to maintain colonial relationships
with racialized communities in the surrounding agricultural hinterland. Working-class Anglo settlers,
along with racial minorities and non-white immigrants, were largely excluded from participation in
civic activities as Anglo elites fought to remove these residents to the metropolitan periphery. Still,
civic elites could only extend their political control as far as the city borders, so after Phoenix voters
approved major postwar municipal bonds, civic elites annexed surrounding areas so that Charter
(the municipal political machine) could dictate development along the metropolitan periphery. While
metropolitan Phoenix enticed affluent homeowners with modern amenities and tolerable taxes, city
officials engaged in ruthless chicanery to convert, cajole, or coerce consent for annexation petitions
from right-wing populists. In contrast, Charter disenfranchised racialized residents to reduce
resistance to annexation in segregated communities. By 1960, just as in dozens of other Sunbelt
cities across the nation, municipal annexation allowed civic elites to amalgamate the metropolitan
periphery into their municipality. Metropolitan Phoenix, along with the broader American Sunbelt,
exists due to municipal annexation. This talk shows how this policy should be understood as a facet
within a longer a historical continuum of settler colonialism in the U.S./Mexico Borderlands.
March 27 - How sensitive are tropical African mountains to climate change? - CANCELED
During the last century, tropical African mountain glaciers have lost more than 90% of their surface area in response to climate warming. Given present trends, we expect these glaciers to disappear within the next few decades. How much have African glaciers and mountain temperatures varied in the past, what were the impacts of these changes on mountain landscapes and ecosystems, and what might these past variations portend for the future? This talk will present new reconstructions of climate, mapping and dating of past glacial extents, and reconstructions of ecosystem processes from the Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda-D.R.C. to address these questions.
April 24 - Mapping before, and without, 'Cartography' - CANCELED
Matthew H. Edney
University of Wisconsin-Madison
What is a map? After four decades of debate, map scholars have yet to answer this question to their common satisfaction, which suggests that they are perhaps asking the wrong question. We can instead answer another question: what is cartography? Cartography appears to be the universal, transcultural endeavor of mapmaking. Yet this conception emerged only in the nineteenth century as an idealization - an inadequate description and model - of actual mapping practices. Moreover, an ongoing post-representational critique has yet to dispel the ideal's culturally hegemonic status. Coeditor (with Mary Pedley) of the newly published Cartography in the European Enlightenment, Volume 4 of the award-winning History of Cartography series, Edney explores how to write the history of cartography before the formulation of the ideal of cartography, and how this approach reconfigures the study of mapping processes today without further succumbing to the ideal and its inherent flaws.