While static, this crisis map includes a truly unique detail. Click on the map below to see a larger version as this may help you spot what is so striking.
For a hint, click this link. Still stumped? Look at the sources listed in the Key.
This short video is absolutely a must-watch for today’s digital and crowdsourced-mapping enthusiasts. Produced by Chevrolet in the 1940s, Caught Mapping is an educational film that provides a truly intriguing and at times amusingly enter-taining view into how road maps were made at the time. The contrasts with today’s live, crowdsourced, social-media maps rich with high-resolution satellite imagery are simply staggering. This is definitely worth the watch!
What do you think map-making will look like in 2040? Will we still be making maps? Or will automated sensors be live mapping 24/7? Will 2D interfaces disappear entirely and be replaced by 3D maps? Will all geo-tagged data simply be embedded within augmented reality platforms and updated live? Will we even be using the word “map” anymore?
World Bank Managing Director Caroline Anstey recently announced a new partnership with Google that will apparently empower citizen cartographers in 150 countries worldwide. This has provoked some concern among open source enthusiasts. Under this new agreement, the Bank, UN agencies and developing country governments will be able to “access Google Map Maker’s global mapping platform, allowing the collection, viewing, search and free access to data of geoinformation in over 150 countries and 60 languages.”
So what’s the catch? Google’s licensing agreement for Google Map Maker stipulates the following: Users are not allowed to access Google Map Maker data via any platform other than those designated by Google. Users are not allowed to make any copies of the data, nor can they translate the data, modify it or create a derivative of the data. In addition, users cannot publicly display any Map Maker data for commercial purposes. Finally, users cannot use Map Maker data to create a service that is similar to any already provided by Google.
There’s a saying in the tech world that goes like this: “If the product is free, then you are the product.” I fear this may be the case with the Google-Bank partnership. I worry that Google will organize more crowdsourced mapping projects (like the one they did for Sudan last year), and use people with local knowledge to improve Map Maker data, which will carry all the licensing restrictions described above. Does this really empower citizen cartographers?
Or is this about using citizen cartographers (as free labor?) for commercial purposes? Will Google push Map Maker data to Google Maps & Google Earth products, i.e., expanding market share & commercial interests? Contrast this with the World Bank’s Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI), which uses open source software and open data to empower local communities and disaster risk managers. Also, the Google-Bank partnership is specifically with UN agencies and governments, not exactly citizens or NGOs.
Caroline Anstey concludes her announcement with the following:
“In the 17th century, imperial cartographers had an advantage over local communities. They could see the big picture. In the 21st century, the tables have turned: local communities can make the biggest on the ground difference. Crowdsourced citizen cartographers can help make it happen.”
Here’s another version:
“In the 21st century, for-profit companies like Google Inc have an advantage over local communities. They can use big license restrictions. With the Google-Bank partnership, Google can use local communities to collect information for free and make the biggest profit. Crowdsourced citizen cartographers can help make it happen.”
The Google-Bank partnership points to another important issue being ignored in this debate. Let’s not pretend that technology alone determines whether participatory mapping truly empowers local communities. I recently learned of an absolutely disastrous open source “community” mapping project in Africa which should one day should be written up in a blog post entitled “Open Source Community Mapping #FAIL”.
So software developers (whether from the open source or proprietary side) who want to get involved in community mapping and have zero experience in participatory GIS, local development and capacity building should think twice: the “do no harm” principle also applies to them. This is equally true of Google Inc. The entire open source mapping community will be watching every move they make on this new World Bank partnership.
I do hope Google eventually realizes just how much of an opportunity they have to do good with this partnership. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will draft a separate licensing agreement for the World Bank partnership. In fact, I hope they openly invite the participatory GIS and open source mapping communities to co-draft an elevated licensing agreement that will truly empower citizen cartographers. Google would still get publicity—and more importantly positive publicity—as a result. They’d still get the data and have their brand affiliated with said data. But instead of locking up the Map Maker data behind bars and financially profiting from local communities, they’d allow citizens themselves to use the data in whatever platform they so choose to improve citizen feedback in project planning, implementation and monitoring & evaluation. Now wouldn’t that be empowering?
I came across some interesting finds at the National Air and Space Museum this weekend. The World War One (WWI) exhibit had this large, back-lit crisis map:
Now, war maps are nothing new. In this previous blog post, I noted that, “In 1668, Louis XIV of France commissioned three-dimensional scale models of eastern border towns, so that his generals in Paris and Versailles could plan realistic maneuvers. […] As late as World War II, the French government guarded them as military secrets with the highest security classification” (see picture). What struck me about the crisis map of WWI was the text above the title:
“To satisfy the public’s desire for information about the war, newspapers published war maps that provided the locations and military capabilities of the warring nations. This map, published at the outbreak of hostilities illustrates the British view of the war’s global scope.” I’m intrigued by this find and wonder how often these maps were updated and what sources were used. Would public opinion at the time have differed had live crowdsourced crisis maps existed?
Towards the end of the WWI exhibit, I came across this sign, originally posted near the entrances of the London Underground. The warning relates to hostile German aircraft that had begun to bomb London in early 1915. On September 8, a Zepellin raid on the city cause more than half a million pounds of damage.
What stuck me about this warning were the following instructions: “In the event of a hostile aircraft being seen in country districts, the nearest Naval, Military or Police Authorities should, if possible, be advised immediately by Telephone of the time of appearance, the direction of flight, and whether the aircraft is an Airship or an Aeroplane.” Crowdsourcing early warnings of WWI attacks.
Know of other interesting examples of crowsourcing during the first (or second) world war? If so, please feel free to share in the comments section below, I’d love to compile more examples.
I was in Kansas last week for TEDxKC. The venue for the event was spectacular: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The curator kept the museum open that evening for participants to enjoy after the talks. I relished the tranquility and found myself lost in thought in front of a quiet masterpiece by Francois Boucher. I had shared my story “Changing the World, One Map at a Time” on the TEDx stage earlier that evening and realized that live maps and museums weren’t that different. Both are curated and display moments in history, the good and bad.
The opening speaker of TEDxKC 2011 was Jenn Lim, the CEO and Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness, a company she co-founded to inspire happiness in work, community and everyday life. I found Jenn during the reception and asked: “How about crowdsourcing happiness and creating a happiness map?” The thought had come to me just minutes before my talk. I’ve been focusing on crisis mapping for a while but there’s obviously so much more to live maps.
Historian Geoffrey Blainey argues that “for every thousand pages on the causes of war, there is less than one page on the causes of peace.” And yet, peace is far more pervasive than war, we simply don’t write about it. The same is true of things that go well in general. So what if we made the good stuff more visible and showed just how much more frequent and pervasive peace and happiness are then we may at first realize?
Current world happiness maps are computed by academics using various structural indicators and macro-level statistics. These maps are limited to the nation-state level of analysis which suggests that everyone in a given country is equally happy throughout an entire year. Maps don’t get more old school than this. What is blatantly missing is something like Gross National Happiness (GNH) data but disaggregated, user-generated and mapped in real-time.
I had pitched the same idea to Coca-Cola two years ago as part of their Expedition 206 campaign. Three “Happiness Ambassadors” travelled to 206 countries in 2010 to find what happiness means to the world. I had heard about the project through a good friend who had auditioned to be one of the Happiness Ambassadors.
The idea of a happiness world tour appealed to me a lot but why not let people speak for themselves and map what happiness means to them? The Expedition 206 Team was already using social media and a map as part of their campaign, so a crowdsourced happiness world map made perfect sense.
This is precisely what I pitched to Coca-Cola as the screenshot below shows. My colleague and friend Caleb Bell from Ushahidi did some awesome interface design work for the pitch.
While Coca-Cola was intrigued by the idea, they had already launched their Expedition 206 Social Media strategy. In any case, this project came to mind just minutes before I got on the TEDxKC stage last week and it’s something I’d like to take up again and would love some help on.
We could customize the Ushahidi platform and smart phone apps. People could then share what happiness means to them by “checking in” with a status update and/or a picture. The content could then be automatically mapped on a World Happiness Map.
Happiness badges could also be won when people check into certain places and/or with certain updates. Happiness messages or pictures could be embedded across the map (geo-fencing) so that anyone checking in at any given time place/time would receive a message/picture that would make them smile.
One could also “Subscribe to Happiness!” by allowing people to receive any happiness updates/pictures from people around them. For example, Mike could subscribe to happiness updates say within a 5 mile radius of the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. When Kelly checks in on her way to the museum, Mike would get an update with the happiness message (either anonymous or with Kelly’s name/picture).
I think this could be quite a powerful campaign, especially given the state of the world economy and ongoing crises. Incidentally, smiling has been scientifically shown to have positive health effects such as extending lifespans, as my colleague Ron Gutman points out in this TED talk.
A crowdsourcing happiness campaign would help remind people about what they do have and what they can be grateful for. One idea, then, might be to launch this campaign as part of the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays. I’d love to partner with someone to make this happen. So please get in touch if you’d like to help. In the meantime, smile! : )
The state of Minnesota is home to the largest population of Somalis in North America. Like any Diaspora, the estimated 25,000 Somalis who live there ar closely linked to family members back home. They make thousands of phone calls every week to numerous different locations across Somalia. So why not make the Somali Diaspora a key partner in the humanitarian response taking place half-way across the world?
In Haiti, Mission 4636 was launched to crowdsource micro needs assessments from the disaster affected population via SMS. The project could not have happened without hundreds of volunteers from the Haitian Diaspora who translated and geo-referenced the incoming text messages. There’s no doubt that Diasporas can play a pivotal role in humanitarian response but they are typically ignored by large humanitarian organizations. This is why I’m excited to be part of an initiative that plans to partner with key members of the Diaspora to create a live crisis map of Somalia.
The project is still in very early stages so there’s not much to show right now but I’m hopeful that the stars will align next week so we can formally launch the initiative. The basic game plan is as follows:
If the pilot is successful, then colleagues in Minnesota may recruit additional trusted members of the community to participate in this live crisis mapping effort. There’s a lot more to the project including several subsequent phases but we’re still at the early stages so who knows where this will go. But yes, we’re thinking through the security implications, verification issues, data visualization features, necessary analytics, etc. If all goes well, there’ll be a lot more information to share next week in which case I’ll add more info here and also post an update on the Ushahidi blog.