Inaugural Lecture: The Power of Maps

In an age where the threat of misinformation looms large, the significance of maps as a medium for the communication of knowledge is extremely significant. Professor James Cheshire has played an integral role in emphasising the importance of maps, especially within the UCL Geography department.

In many ways, what James does is an art – or what is referred to as the ‘art of abstraction’ – an abstraction from reality, in which James presents complicated data in an accessible and aesthetically pleasing to look at.

His work comes at a crucial time, taking advantage of the advent of big data and the technological advances for reproducibility and the rapid processing of data. The result is a bridge between maps and the projection of complicated data. Some examples of this include mapping population, political activity, and socio-economic dynamics. His work isn’t restricted to the realm of social research, but also touches upon, for example, ecology, such as the movements and behaviours of seals around the Antarctic.

In education, James has been influential in directing the Q-Step Centre at UCL – arguably the best place to learn Quantitative Methods in the UK. His impact extends beyond UCL, with his work being involved in the A-Levels syllabus. His work has also been available through popular books, such as The Information Capital and Where the Animals Go, published together with close collaborator Oliver Uberti. 

James has won a host of prizes recognising his achievements from prestigious bodies such as the Royal Geographical Society and the British Cartographic Society. This inaugural lecture marks another achievement in what should be many more to come. Congratulations James!

James’ work can be followed on twitter: @spatialanalysis; as well as his website:

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