Maptivism: Mapping Information for Advocacy and Activism
Screenshot of Ushahidi Haiti
Online mapping is a phenomenal way to communicate and visualize information and data. Maps can tell stories, record and reveal information, show changes over time, and document events during a crisis in ways that words cannot. With new technologies, it has become much easier for individuals with nontechnical backgrounds to engage with mapping technologies, many of which are available for free. Digital maps can be combined with data to give new context to issues and events and to promote transparency.
There are different types of mapping for advocacy and activism.
According to New Tactics in Human Rights, tactical mapping is “a method of visualizing the institutions and relationships sustaining human rights abuses and then tracking the nature and potency of tactics available to affect these systems, ultimately serving as a tool to monitor the implementation of strategy.”
It can also be used to document environmental destruction and social issues such as incidents of crime and harassment. Some well-known maps include:
This project, put together by blogger Sami ben Gharbia, maps prison locations across Tunisia. A map like this (see a screenshot below) is important since much information about the penitentiary system is kept secret by the government.
HarassMap is an initiative that aims to map sexual harassment in Egypt through SMS reporting. It hopes "to change its social acceptability, spread awareness, and revitalize the public movement." The project will be launched later this year.
CrimeReports is the largest online resource for accurate and up-to-date crime information in North America. Users can search by neighborhood to see incidents of crime.
Crisis mapping is a tactic used to map incidents during a crisis or disaster. According to CrisisMappers.net, it involves "leveraging mobile platforms, computational linguistics, geospatial technologies, and visual analytics to power effective early warning for rapid response to complex humanitarian emergencies.”
Patrick Meier, Director of Crisis Mapping and Strategic Partnerships at Ushahidi, recently gave a presentation on collaborative crisis mapping at the Emergency Social Data Summit hosted by the Red Cross in August 2010. Watch below.
The platform Ushahidi has frequently been used by crisis mappers, with the end product resulting in a mashup between Ushahidi and a Google map or OpenStreetMap. Ushahidi allows anyone to adapt this mashup as a live mapping tool for any local situation. Incidents plotted on maps in this way can provide invaluable information to first aid responders and others involved in humanitarian aid and crisis responses.
In a recent paper highlighting Ushahidi-Haiti and Ushahidi-Chile, Sophia B. Liu, Anahi Ayala Iacucci, and Patrick Meier write: “The hope behind creating the Ushahidi map mashup was that this crowdsourced information would mobilize people to assist other members of the public in a crisis and mobilize governments to react.”
The authors also describe what distinguishes Ushahidi from a regular GIS map:
What makes the Ushahidi maps different from classical GIS maps is its ability to visualize interactions. The Ushahidi map is a living map of crowdsourced crisis data visualized “on top” of the static GIS map, the base layer. The Ushahidi map makes it possible to follow the situation developing on the ground because of its ability to show the interactions between the event and the place where this event has occurred and the reaction of the people living at the location impacted by the event. In addition, the Ushahidi map is also a witness to the interactions between the people managing the platform and the people reporting to the platform, and the interaction between the people in need and the responders.”
Learn more about crisis mapping in Haiti by reading our case study here.
Ushahidi also recently released Crowdmap, which allows people to use the Ushahidi platform without having to run it on their own servers.
There are numerous examples of how Ushahidi and Crowdmap have been used around the world. Some highlights include:
Oil Reporter was by built by the volunteers of CrisisCamp to report and map incidents related to the Gulf oil spill.
PakReport (Pakistan Flood Incident Reporting)
PakReport was created by Islamabad-based technology entrepreneur and TED Fellow Faisal Chohan. It uses the Ushahidi platform to collect and distribute alerts about flood incidents.
Users can submit problems that they have on the Washington, D.C., Metro. Reports are then plotted on a map.
The Freedom Geomap shares information about human trafficking worldwide and antitrafficking efforts. Learn more by reading our case study here.
HelpMap (Russian Wildfires)
The creation of HelpMap was the first time that Ushahidi has been deployed in Russia. It was used to coordinate the needs of fire victims with offers of help. Learn more about the people behind HelpMap and how it was used by checking out our case study.
Beyond crisis mapping, the Ushahidi platform has also been used for election monitoring, including the following:
Uchaguzi launched during Kenya’s 2010 constitutional referendum. More than 1,500 reports were received.
AliveinAfghanistan has fielded reports during the 2009 presidential election and 2010 parliamentary election.
VotoJoven in Venezuela received 500 reports related to elections on September 26, 2010.
Eleitor 2010 is set up to crowdsource reports around Brazil's upcoming election.
Vote Report India was created to 2009 elections in India (see screenshot below).
GEO-MAPPING AND DATA COLLECTION
Geomapping “makes invisible data visible” by identifying areas of interest using GIS, satellite imagery, and other mapping functions. With the wider available of mapping technologies (see our resources below to learn more about some popular tools), a number of unique maps have been created to address a wide cross-section of issues.
Here are a few to check out:
A project by the nonprofit group Rede Jovem to build maps of five favelas in Brazil
Map of the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya
Thirty residents of Kibera, a massive slum in Nairobi, Kenya, mapped their own communities using OpenStreetMap.
Viewers can marks spots on the map associated with high levels of pollution or incidents of contamination.
The Amazon Conservation Team works with indigenous peoples to map indigenous lands in an effort to protect the Amazon rain forest. The partners are working to build “a detailed ethnographic map that clearly demarcates the region claimed by indigenous groups as their ancestral territory; demonstrates the indigenous groups' use of that region; and identifies the sites of greatest importance to indigenous peoples.” On the project's website, the partners describe how the indigenous peoples go about mapping:
"Using hand-held GPS devices, they establish coordinates and record waypoints to supplement their hand-drawn maps. Their meticulous and highly accurate drawings are ultimately compared with satellite images and government base maps. Finally, GIS software is used to create a final digital product incorporating the village-level data into cartographically accurate maps of great legal credibility."
The map uses Google Earth imagery to provide evidence of the destruction in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The Access Denied map tracks online censorship around the world. It uses Google Maps as the base and then adds point markers to locate countries where censorship has taken place.
A mashup of Google Maps and Prop 8 donors in California
OpenHeatMap is a unique and cool way to visualize information. It “transforms data from a traditional data source such as a spreadsheet into an interactive animated view of a particular area.” You can create your own map using a spreadsheet, map your Twitter friends and followers, and check out maps in their gallery, including this map of World Bank data.
Check out our guide to creating an OpenHeatMap here.
This is a Wiki-style map that is free and editable.
Crowdmap is a free, web-based application created by the people behind the Ushahidi platform and can be used for collecting, aggregating, and visualizing information.
Check out our guide to using Crowdmap here.
Ushahidi is a free and open-source software platform used to collect and visualize information.
Check out our guide to using Ushahidi here.
You can easily create a customized and personalized map using Google Maps. All you need is a Google account.
MapBox is a group of open-source tools that can be used to create custom maps in Amazon’s cloud infrastructure.
Check out our guide to using MapBox here.
Want to learn more about mapping for activism and advocacy? Here are some great resources:
Tactical Technology Collective's guide “Maps for Advocacy"
The International Network for Crisis Mappers: An online network for people engaged in crisis mapping
Ushahidi's Blog: A blog about updates to the platform and how it is being used around the world
Patrick Meier’s blog: Patrick is deeply involved in the crisis mapping community.