ArcWatch: Your e-Magazine for GIS News, Views, and Insights

June 2010

Richard Saul Wurman Will Talk about the 19.20.21 Project

Creator of the TED Conferences to Keynote the Esri International User Conference

By Aly Lawson, Esri Writer

  photo of Richard Saul Wurman
Richard Saul Wurman has written dozens of books over the course of his career.

When Richard Saul Wurman published his first book in 1962, he began to pursue what he calls "the singular passion" of his life: making information understandable. Now a prolific author and creator of the Technology/Entertainment/Design (TED) conferences, Wurman will speak at the 2010 Esri International User Conference (Esri UC) in July. He will discuss his latest project, 19.20.21, and how geographic information system (GIS) technology plays a part in it.

The 19.20.21 project is an attempt to understand comparative data on 19 cities that will have 20 million or more inhabitants in the 21st century. With the majority of the earth's population now living in cities, Wurman saw a need to address an information gap about the urban supercenters driving modern culture.

"It's a unique calling to be able to elucidate the world's more complicated subject matter," said Esri president Jack Dangermond. "We are extremely honored to have Richard Saul Wurman join us as a keynote speaker at the Esri UC this year, and we look forward to hearing what he has to say about GIS technology and trends."

Wurman likes to say that all his work springs from the same place—his ignorance. Starting with his first book, which featured models of 50 cities on a uniform scale, each of Wurman's 82 books focuses on a topic he wanted to better understand. With driving curiosity, Wurman seeks ways to make the complex clear. He has written about subjects and ideas ranging from football to health care. Wurman's achievements over the last half century include writing the best-selling book Information Anxiety and his award-winning ACCESS travel guides such as ACCESS Los Angeles, ACCESS Paris, and ACCESS California Wine Country.

Described by Fortune magazine as an "intellectual hedonist with a hummingbird mind," Wurman also launched the first TED conference in 1984; he brought together America's clearest thinkers in technology, entertainment, and design to enlist others in educating the public. TED is a small, nonprofit organization dedicated to ideas worth spreading through its annual conferences,, and the annual TED Prize and local TEDx events. The TED conferences host intriguing and inspiring talks by imaginative, ambitious people. The presentations are then made available online.

Esri UC will be held in the San Diego Convention Center in California July 12-16, 2010. The 19.20.21 project will be featured in the conference's special displays area near the Map Gallery. The conference draws thousands of professionals from around the world who want to learn about, collaborate on, and explore the latest developments in GIS. The theme this year is Geography—Opening the World to Everyone. Learn more about Esri UC and register.

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