State of the Map 2018 in Milan

This is a joint article by Sebastian Meier and alsino Skowronnek. Early this year we were given travel grants by the Open Street Map foundation to join the community at their yearly gathering at the State of the Map conference. This year, the Open Street Map community met in beautiful Milan (Italy) for three days, to discuss the latest developments and applications and of course to celebrate open spatial data.

Alternative perspectives through artistic interpretations

Projects by @hnshck (from left: Inaccessible Places, Trump’s wall and Aleppo in Berlin)

We were part of a group of funded OSM enthusiasts invited to present their perspectives, research and applications in Milan. Together with @hnshck Sebastian gave a talk , showing their artistic works, which would not be possible without the OSM data source. Both focused on alternating perspectives through new visual representations of urban data. Hans’ project “Inaccessible Places / Orte der Unzugänglichkeit” helps us keep in mind how densely populated and connected our planet is. By visualising the distance for any point in Germany to the next road, he provides us with a novel perspective onto our surroundings. His other works strongly play with familiarity, for example recontextualising US president Trump’s planned border wall in our backyard, by visualising how it would stretch across the whole of Europe or reprojecting the destruction of war shattered Aleppo onto Berlin, helping us realize and understand the scale of destruction.

A transformed 3d-printed city model, representing a personal perspective on Berlin

Familiarity is also an important component in the project Sebastian presented. His project “Psychogeography — in the age of the quantified self” is part research part artistic practice. Together with his colleague Katrin Glinka, Sebastian has been exploring how we construct mental maps of our urban surroundings and, more importantly, visualizing those personal maps of cities. Inspired by the works of the french Situationist movement, he is transforming cities based on individual’s trips through the city, simulating their remembrance of their city. The visualisations and 3d-printed models are build using OSM data.

Maptime Berlin & Milan

alsino and @miccferr presenting Maptime

Together with Michele Ferretti (@miccferr), Alsino presented insights from three years of organising the interdisciplinary meetup Maptime Berlin and Michele the corresponding insights for Maptime Milan. Maptime was born in San Francisco, initiated by a few enthusiasts at Stamen in 2013. Initially a weekly casual Bay area event, it has since then spread around the globe and has chapters in many cities and countries. Maptime is all about sharing knowledge about making maps, building new map-driven applications and simply sharing the enthusiasm of map making. Maptime particularly focusses on providing a welcoming atmosphere to beginners and experts alike, coming from all domains and backgrounds. The Berlin chapter, which is organised by alsino, Sebastian Meier, Harald, Tobi and Nicole has hosted a wide range of workshops on everything from hand-drawn maps, on how to use OSM data to providing students and beginners with a platform for sharing their map-related projects and ideas. In fact, over the years Maptime Berlin has become a focal point for the local geo, design and data community in Berlin.

The state of the map conference was hosting many exciting talks in many parallel sessions, so unfortunately we are unable to tell you about everything that happened. But we want to share two projects that especially peaked our interest.

Making maps with Emojis

Emoji Globe by Erik Escoffier

We are still super exited about the session on making maps with emojis by Erik Escoffier. Erik presented a couple of fun and easy to use techniques on implementing thematic maps with emojis by layering emoji canvas layers on top of base maps. While being fairly very straight forward and simple to use, this technique was nevertheless presented in a very thoughtful and nteresting way. Erik, who is one of the founders of satellitestudio, developed a tool to turn any map into a emoji map and place it on a Leaflet map. The plugin is available on github. He even managed to build a map where emojis represent data in two dimensions (age and skin tone).

Humans and Machines Mapping Together

Sajjad Anwar explaining their ML process

At this year’s SOTM, there were quite a few talks about the intersection of machine learning and spatial data. The workshop by Sajjad Anwar of Development Seed showed in a very transparent and easy to follow way how to combine OSM data, satellite imagery to automate mapping tasks. Using this technology, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team has been able to identify electricity towers in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Zambia. Especially interesting, the team did not use the approach to completely automate the process, but to identify areas of interest, which would then be analysed and verified by a team on the ground. Good use case for AI and humans working hand in hand. The project is open source and the code is available on Github.

Of course there were so many more interesting talks, that we could not cover here. Check out the program for more infos and see the recorded video section (below on the same website) to catch a few of the talks.

A big thank you, again, and shout-outs to the Open Street Map Foundation for providing us with travel grants and allowing us to participate in this event. It was great us to finally meet many of the people from the OSM community in person, that we had previously only been in touch with over the internet. We will definitely be back next year!

Scholarship recipients at State of the Map 2018