Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, was the site for the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS http://bit.ly/10FIw6) annual conference for 2011. Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, home of some of the great cartographers and geographers of the 20th century http://bit.ly/8Y3Szd , such as Arthur Robinson and Yi-Fu Tuan http://bit.ly/92NX3u. One of the great experiences of the conference was the closing address at the banquet by Yi-Fu Tuan "On the Relationship Between Cartography and Humanism". His talk covered topics as diverse as representations of cities on medieval maps and landscapes in Chinese art, to our sense of place when one feels homesick.
Prior to that however, were two days of interesting, inspirit and engaging presentations across a broad range of subject matter over three concurrent streams. Almost 90 presentations were given along with panel discussions to engage audience participation. Whilst not possible to attend all speakers, there was enough variety to gain a huge amount of information from diverse topics.
Topics of note that were particularly relevant to the work done by Spatial Vision included, symbology; mobile app development; classroom maps; dynamic mapping; serving online maps; representing terrain; and narrative maps.
Panel discussions on the extinction of cartography and educating cartographers were well attended and broadly discussed. Of note was the panel discussion on the extinction of cartography, hosted by Brent Hecht from Northwestern University and Patrick Hoffman, Matt Simpson and Michelle Lee from Google, Sydney. This discussion ranged from user-generated maps, personalised maps, and user experience (UX) versus cartography. It was particularly refreshing to see representatives from Google attend and contribute to a conference such as this and engage so warmly with the attendees.
Along with any conference comes social activities and the organising committee had plenty to keep delegates mixing, networking, sharing ideas and swapping business cards.
Personally I've had the pleasure of meeting many people for the first time who I've admired from afar and corresponded with over the years.
Overall the conference was a raging success with only glowing comments from delegates about the quality of the content and the number of delegates (365 delegates, which apparently was over 150 up from last years' conference).
If there was one major issue that I could take away from the conference it would be that cartographers are now beginning to grapple with the move from paper to web and mobile delivery of maps. Some have made the transition more smoothly than others, but the tools are out there for us all to learn and embrace to improve the quality of the mapping experience for users.