Digital Mappa Project

For May 16, 2018

Hi WN@TL Fans,

Consider the word “map.”

What comes to your mind first: the noun or the verb?  The image or the action?

‘Map’ is just three letters of text, but those three letters stand for the making of some of the most influential images humans have ever created.

Whether you’re Lewis & Clark or Long John Silver, maps are also among the most captivating icons in history and in literature. Furthermore, maps could be the thing being held captive: William Manchester reports in “A World Lit Only by Fire” that the charts and rutters of Spanish explorers were treated as state secrets by the monarchs in Valladolid.

Now consider “map” as a verb. In the smart-phone era, the impelling force today is how to make maps not secret but rather ubiquitous, updated continuously, crowd-sourced, data-driven, made by all and available to all. Digital technologies, from image capture to hyperlinked text to document sharing, speed the genie.

Alas, old maps and their companion documents are not digital, but rather they are drawings and words on paper, vellum or canvas.  How can these unique treasures be made available to us all?

This week (May 16) Martin Foys of English will chart out for us the Digital Mappa project.  Although Digital Mappa started with the Virtual Mappa, DM encompasses other types of old documents. And, while one picture is worth a thousand words, nothing’s more loquacious than a well-annotated map.

Here’s how Prof. Foys describes his talk:

Foys will provide an overview of the recently released Digital Mappa (DM) resource. DM is a freely available, online environment for creating projects out of digital images and texts. The premise of DM is simple and powerful: if you have a collection of digital images and/or texts, you should be able to — with little technical expertise — produce an online resource that links specific moments on these images and texts, annotate these moments, collaborate with others, have the ability to search the content you produce, and make the work available to others as you wish. Foys will detail the features of this resource and showcase a sampling of current DM projects.

About the Speaker

Prior to his position as a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Martin Foys was a senior lecturer in pre-1300 English at King’s College London. He has also held posts at Drew University, Hood College, and Florida State University. The core of his scholarship concerns early medieval England, with a special focus on the intersection of literature and other visual, material, and media modes of cultural expression; and how these older forms of medieval content can be reformulated in digital media. For more on Foys’s teaching and scholarship, see


Next week, May 23, David Baum of Botany and the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery  provides the next episode in our series on Synthetic Biology with his talk entitled “The Origin of Life as a Chemical Ecological Problem: New Ideas and New Experiments”.

This is appealing to the kid-with-the-chemistry-set in me;  sparking life not ex nihilo but rather ex perimental.

Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!

Thanks again,

Tom Zinnen
UW-Madison and UW-Extension