Who iM…

Ian Muehlenhaus candid photo, 2013

Hi. I am Ian Muehlenhaus.

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… essentially, Mr. Oas gave up his name for office space he no longer has.

Somewhere between changing my name and the time at which you are reading this, 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!)

In August 2014, I moved from the midwest to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to become an Assistant Professor of Geographic Science at James Madison University (JMU). The Geographic Science Program is housed within the Department of Integrated Science and Technology (ISAT), which means I have really cool colleagues who do a lot of wild things (like design and crash test hover cars). I will be teaching courses on introductory GIS, map design and visualization, Web maps, and human geography. I can’t wait to get started!

A picture of Ian Oas, who is now Ian Muehlenhaus, in State College, Pennsylvania, back in 2003. Alligator name and whereabouts unknown.

This was Ian Oas in 2002.

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. 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 was published by CRC Press in December 2013. (If you are looking for the book’s companion Website, it can be found here.) It deals primarily with Web map design and 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.

More recently, I have been exploring general map aesthetics and form using a combination of film theory and the literary theorist Kenneth Burke. Combining aspects of Burke’s theory with that of a graphic theorist named Donis Dondis, I am attempting to develop a tool for redefining map genre and systematically analyzing map form. It is kind of nuts, but I like nutty projects! Plus, it has been a great excuse to re-watch the Stanley Kubrick filmography!

As for life outside of work — i.e., what matters most — I like to hang out with my wife, two young daughters, and our Wheaten terrier. In my spare time I mostly read sci-fi novels, play European board games, binge-watch streamed television shows, and experiment with different applications on my computer. Life is good!