Category Archives: VGI

Crisis Mapping makes some headlines

Two stories were published today: one in the New York Times on the potential for online mapping to contribute to humanitarian relief efforts and another in The Chronicle on academic involvement in these efforts.  Reporter Marc Parry interviewed me for the 2nd story, and something I said managed to stay off the cutting room floor!  My five seconds of fame in a Chronicle article.

Today was the official end to the Standby Task Force’s contributions to the Libya mapping effort, and the UN OCHA has assumed the responsibility of the project.  It was their request that launched this deployment in the first place, and also today they published a report that addresses the Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies.  Took a quick scan through it and realized it needs a closer read when I have a more focused mind.

I am a complete newbie to the domain of crisis mapping, but learning little-by-little. The 4-week Libya deployment was both humbling and inspiring. Humbling because these contributions are so small and so tenuous in the face of true need. At times the whole system seemed so ethereal and fragile: a loose network of people around the world, relying on digital technologies such as gmail and Skype and google docs to coordinate themselves.  Inspiring because it works, and I loved being part of a team that has been doing *something* to help.

I intend to continue as a coordinating member of the SBTF’s analysis team, volunteering one map at a time.  Still working through the plans for bringing students to this too.  May Term?

entertainment maps

Movies:  a film buff has mapped 9000+ shooting locations that take place in 2000+ movies.  My university (Redlands) shows up for its cameo in The Rules of Attraction, a movie that I’ve managed to miss all these years.

Music: for people who associate music with specific places, a new map mashup lets people link to a favorite song snippet at a locale of their choice, world-wide.  Music + place = memories.

Contributing VGI to Libya

Over the last few weeks I finally started walking the talk. For years I’ve encouraged students to seek out opportunities to apply their mapping skills in helping others. Mapping soils is good and important; mapping needs is better.  I  was inspired by Anahi Ayala Iacucci back in January to learn more about Crisis Mappers, and I did.  I learned, I joined, and I’m helping.  Just a little, around the edges of my day job, with some evening and weekend hours.  For the last few weeks I’ve been working on the geo-locating and analyses teams of the Libya deployment. I’ve written a few of the daily situation reports that the UN OCHA and other targeted audiences follow. Here’s a description that Crisis Mappers’ co-founder Patrick Meier wrote about the work of this volunteer group.  I’m designing future training opportunities so that Redlands students can learn and choose to volunteer as well.  I’m hooked!

Atlas Obscura 2011

Atlas Obscura Day 2011 is just around the corner. Time to celebrate and explore the weird and wonderful phenomena of our phenomena-filled world.  I like the Atlas itself as a resource for locating the types of places that I enjoy visiting, like the Fremont Troll.

VGI and the Jane Goodall Institute

I was given a gift this morning: to be part of a small meeting at which Jane Goodall and others from her Institute met with Esri folks to discuss current and future collaborations.  Some great ideas being discussed for using VGI and citizen science for their Roots and Shoots program and beyond, and imagining new ways to use geodesign processes in their work.  I’m excited for these developments.  Maybe I’ll make it to Tanzania one day?

crisis mapping for New Zealand earthquake

The video footage of the Christchurch earthquake has been terrifyingly mesmerizing. I still lack the training to contribute to, but their task force has been launched. First map from Crowdmap is here.   I want to be ready to help, soon.

VGI for Crisis Mapping

Third and final day of the small gathering (hosted by ESRI) to talk about VGI. Last formal talk, by Anahi Ayala Iacucci, on the work of Ushahidi and Crisis Mappers, was inspiring to many. It was gratifying to see how much (relative) progress has been done on coordination of vital grassroots efforts.

I wasn’t nearly as familiar with this work as I could have been, and I’ve lost track of the current status of the GISCorps too, since the 2006-2007 project I did with them for the Medical Mission Exchange.

It doesn’t take much for me to question the value of my knowledge as it’s currently applied in my regular work, compared to what I could be doing. Will be working to merge these better! First step – will organize a student opportunity to contribute some work to Open Street Map this spring.

Understanding VGI for Emergency Management

Day 1 of the Redlands GIS Week, and the topic of the year is Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI), especially as it’s relevant for time-sensitive situations. Like emergencies. For example, Little Timmy has fallen down a well.

  • How can we create maps that include wells where young children might play?
  • Could a group of citizen mappers walk around and use their location-enabled cell phones to “tag” locations where dangerous wells exist?
  • If Timmy were to have the sense of mind to use his cell phone to seek help (if Lassie were not with him), and he decided to Tweet, what should he say to make sure the message went to an EMS source?
  • What if he inadvertently spelled it “helf”? (Remember the Gary Larson cartoon when the rescue plane ignores the guy on the island because his message only spelled “Helf”?)
  • Should Twitter provide a single button on its interface to help people reach 911, so that Timmy wouldn’t have to worry about spelling things correctly?
  • Should Timmy know that the #911 convention is a trusted hashtag to reach for help?
Important and interesting questions.  My favorite thing I learned about today was the Copenhagen Wheel project. Very cool.

Finds at Where 2.0

Last week I was lucky enough to have two days at Where 2.0 in San Jose. Spent the whole plane ride up with “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” stuck in my head.

Highlights of the conference for me:

Cartifacts So far this is only for LA and NYC, but they’ll be doing more. Best part of it (apart from the nice cartography) is the small lens tool itself (the small icon in upper left of screen). That allows you to change the zoom level within the circle itself and click on different images (i.e., historic maps and other layers).

Wild Style City – Kind of wonky to use it, but when you get it to work, you can walk down the street, find a clean piece of wall, and make your own graffiti.

Flickr “neighborhoods” – Flickr is doing some cool work with its millions of geotagged images to generate new versions of “regions” and “neighborhoods.” For those of us who like to play with shapefiles, they’ve made these available too.

Andrew Turner was there to promote GeoCommons. I’ve been using GeoCommons in short mapping workshops at Redlands as it’s one of the easiest tools for quick and customizable web-based choropleths. I remember saying a couple of years ago that it was just a matter of time for someone to make an application like this.

One of the best community mapping sites I’ve ever come across, these folks from New Orleans were there to talk about how they built their maps and did their analyses –

These panoramic images are phenomenal – The two brothers who started the company gave the presentation and talked about the technology involved and how they now have 400+ photographers around the world contributing imagery. It’s not just cities…

Most phenomenal 3D imagery you can imagine – this Swedish guy from C3 Technologies gave an ad hoc demo of their product. The small video won’t do it justice, but it’s absolutely amazing in “real life” – Just a few minutes long.