Hi. I’m Ian Muehlenhaus. If you are looking for Ian Oas, I guess I am him too; though, legally, he no longer exists. In 2004 I became Ian Muehlenhaus. It is a long story… (in sum, I lost a bet!)… Though, not quite as long as my new last name.
Somewhere between changing my name and the time at which you are reading this (i.e., now), I earned a Doctorate in Geography from the University of Minnesota. So I changed from Mr. Ian Oas to Mr. Ian Muehlenhaus to Dr. Ian Muehlenhaus. Regardless, I still prefer to go by Ian. (Only my mum can get away with calling me “Dr. Ian,” because it cracks me up!)
I am now an Assistant Professor of Geography and Cartography (a fancy name invented in the 1800s to mean map use design and use) at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. However, I am moving east to James Madison University this fall. (Yes, I am very excited!) I teach courses on print map design, Web mapmaking, maps and society, as well as on European, human, post-socialist, and world regional geography. I also enjoy teaching about political economy, international geopolitics, and network warfare, topics that are near and dear to me.
My research specialty is persuasive map design. Yes, that’s right: I study how to design maps that inform people in specific ways, so that that map users interpret the information you present as you want them to. It is a bit odd, but I am less interested in accurate data mapping like many of my peers; instead, I am interested in figuring out the most effective way to frame arguments with maps. I am fascinated by what I like to call “map rhetoric” — designing maps in a manner that resonates with and disarms intended audiences so that they are compelled to see what you want them to. Some worry that this is unethical; they believe that maps are tools that should only be designed as accurately as possible. I like to remind such people that argumentative writing is something we teach in universities around the world; argumentative mapmaking is no less ethical than argumentative writing.
I am also interested in Web map design. I wrote a textbook called Web Cartography on the topic. It is being published by CRC Press. (If you are looking for the book’s companion Website, it can be found here.) It deals primarily with Web map aesthetics rather than the technologies underpinning Web maps. It was a lot of fun to write and is meant to appeal to Web techies, print cartographers, and university students that want to get into Web mapping.
As for my life outside of academia — i.e., the important thing — I like to hang out with my wife, two daughters, and our Wheaten terrier at home. I mostly read sci-fi and mystery novels, play European-style board games, and experiment with different applications on my computer when I have spare time. I currently live in La Crosse, Wisconsin, but I can’t wait to move out east to Harrisonburg, Virginia this fall.