Ghost Maps: Visualizing Disease Narratives

Ghost Maps: Visualizing Disease Narratives was a team-taught, cross-listed English course offered in the fall 2021 semester that blended ENG 313: Writing About Science, Medicine, and the Environment and ENG 390: Studies in Literature. Using the 19th-century cholera epidemic as a touchstone, the course focused on disease’s literary, rhetorical, and visual dimensions. Together, Profs. Katie Peel and Jeremy Tirrell and their students explored the role of narrative in disease—in case studies, rhetoric, ideology and literature—and vice versa, and wrestled with questions such as: How do we use narrative to understand and speak of disease? How does medical discourse shape our understandings? What does this tell us about the given culture, and how might this help us read texts historically and in the light of our current pandemic era?

As part of the course, students worked together in groups to research a local public health issue and to create a map and accompanying presentation that presented their findings. You can view each group’s work by clicking the buttons below or by scrolling down the page. You can use the buttons following each group’s project summary to view the various artifacts created by each group.

Obesity and Public Health Disparities Hog Farms In North Carolina Opioid Epidemic and Children in Foster Care

Obesity and Public Health Disparities

Summary: The goal of this project was to bring awareness to a pressing health concern in North Carolina. Obesity was chosen because of its association with health problems as well as economic disparity. In the United States, heart disease is one of the top 3 killers and many people are not even given a chance to practice healthy lifestyles because of where they live. The aim was to show people through data visualizations, placemarks, and a map, where some of the major food deserts were located to help people gain perspective on how some of their not so distant neighbors live.

Map  Presentation

Hog Farms In North Carolina

Summary: These health mapping materials are based on possible health effects of hog farms in five different North Carolina counties. Hog farming is a huge industry in the state of North Carolina, and in all the selected counties, the number of hogs outnumber the people. A large hog population can lead to poor air and water quality, which was measured by examining ammonia levels estimated in the counties.

Map  Presentation

Opioid Epidemic and Children in Foster Care

Summary: Our project focuses on the relatedness between children in foster care and opioid abuse by counties located on the NC coast. We are displaying this correlation via an interactive map with layers of data regarding populations of children in foster and opioid overdose ER visits. We are also incorporating data visualizations such as graphs to further present our data in different ways to the audience. Lastly, we will be including tangible place-marks per county that align with our intended goal of reaching out to those who struggle with opioid abuse.

Map  Presentation