Thoughts on Judges

While I may be the Curator of the Monochrome Mapping Competition, a good deal of the labor is left to a panel of judges, who will take the time to assess all the entries. I feel fortunate that an awesome group of people has volunteered their time to help make the competition happen:

Sarah Bell

Martha Bostwick
Centre of Geographic Sciences

Nat Case

James Cheshire
University College London

Arzu Çöltekin
Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz

Jake Coolidge
National Park Service / Colorado State University

Mark Denil
Independent Scholar

David Garcia

Amy Griffin
RMIT University

Alex Hotchin

Xemartin Laborde
Le Monde

Hans van der Maarel
Red Geographics

Brooke Marston
U.S. Department of State

Ginny Mason
S&P Global Platts

Dylan Moriarty
Wall Street Journal

Lauren Tierney
Washington Post

In assembling the panel of judges, I wanted to ensure that the group represented a broad variety of cartographic experiences and approaches. There are two reasons behind this:

First, because everyone has a different cartographic taste; there is no single correct answer for “what is a good map?”. When I was an editor of the Atlas of Design, most maps would receive top scores from some judges, and poor scores from others; consensus was rare. And I think that’s what’s great about the process: having a broad panel of judges captures a lot of different opinions, meaning that the final selection of maps will have a little something for everyone, even though no one will probably love every map that is selected.

Second, and more important: I think the credibility of the competition depends on how well the judges represent the diversity of the field. Most mapping competitions are operated by professional societies or mapping agencies, and they function based upon the respect and reputation that those organizations have. I’m merely a private citizen, so I don’t have that sort of inherent authority. But this panel of judges will, I hope, create the legitimacy that established organizations possess already, by virtue of the fact that they represent a broad swath of the cartographic profession. I want the competition to be taken seriously as something authoritative; a group drawn broadly from the field as a whole can offer that.

This panel has representatives working in academia, the media, and government agencies. There are freelancers, small business owners, and independent scholars. There are people at all stages of their careers. Some of them draw maps by hand, some write code, and some author scholarly articles. Members of the panel live in eight countries. And there are exactly as many men as women because (to paraphrase Justin Trudeau) it’s the twenty-first century.

I think it’s a great group, full of people who are very different from each other, but all united by their love of maps and willingness to help out in this little venture.

It’s also important to be transparent about the fact that this list is very much built upon social connections. The Monochrome Mapping Competition is not unique in this way. Getting judges for a lot of competitions begins with asking questions like “Whom do I feel comfortable asking for a favor?” and “Whom do I think would do a good job, however vaguely defined that is?”. In a couple instances I went out on a limb and asked folks I didn’t know super well. But, I’m a shy and introverted person who takes time to warm up to people, and usually I stick with folks I know. And I’m truly fortunate to know a lot of great people, though even then that leaves my list with some shortcomings. It is geographically unbalanced (leaning heavily on Americans) and mostly white. There are other voices that could be added to this panel to make it reflect our discipline even better. As time goes on (and hopefully the competition continues in future years?) I hope to build the connections that will let me bring those voices aboard.