4 Ways Citizens are Using Interactive Mapping to Make a Difference

So yes, you are most likely asking; “What in the world is ‘Interactive Mapping’”? I asked myself the same question my first day as a summer intern at Space Engagers, a not for profit organisation out of Dublin, Ireland.

Coming from a University in New York with a background in Marketing and International Business, interactive mapping is not something we’ve talked about in my three years, but it is something that is relevant to everyone around the world.

Surprisingly, we’ve all probably used interactive mapping at some point in our lives, whether we realize or not. It is a simple concept where together we share our individual knowledge of the world around us in order to co-create change for the better.

Enterprises all over the world utilize interactive mapping to spread ideas and share data on issues, because who knows their neighborhood better than the people who live there?

Here are 4 examples of how citizen engagement through interactive mapping can make a positive difference.

  1. Space Engagers — Dublin, Ireland

Space Engagers, a small-scale social enterprise is using interactive mapping to do 3 things: engage citizens with local issues, gather essential data that is distributed throughout communities, and with this engagement and data, co-create positive change.

These 3 elements can be placed into a simple formula: Citizens + Data = Change.

To create this positive change, they have developed the Space Engagers App. The App acts as a portal to different place-based projects, where any citizen can make an active contribution towards change in their own community. They can do so by building awareness, gathering useful data, and suggesting new ways of doing things.

A relatable example would be the mapping of vacant spaces. Through engaging citizens with mapping, we can raise awareness of the vacancy issues in cities. When we combine awareness with citizen generated data never yet collected before, we can identify buildings that can be re-used and advocate for policy changes related to vacancy and dereliction.

2. Beyond the Noise: Open Source Soundscapes — Berlin, Germany

Source: http://www.opensourcesoundscapes.org/

Another interactive mapping project; Beyond the Noise: Open Source Soundscapes is a research project funded by the European Union. Their aim is to create a method of identifying, accessing and evaluating possible quiet areas in cities. With the ultimate goal to reduce noise pollution.

Through the Hush City app, locals are able to use an interactive map on their smartphone to geotag areas they believe could be used as a quiet area.

As of right now, the app is available on iTunes and anyone can download it and mark quiet areas around them. Berlin, Germany is the pilot city and if the project is a success, the App will be launched in cities around Europe.

3. Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) — UCL, England

Source: https://uclexcites.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/participatory-mapping-in-congo-brazzaville-part-1/

ExCiteS, a citizen science research group, has also utilized interactive mapping with smartphones and GPS’s in the Congo Basin of Africa.

Local tribes in the basin are encouraged to map areas around them being destroyed by logging companies. The logging companies are then able to use the information to track and understand where they can and cannot cut down trees.

The idea is to help indigenous peoples and the logging companies share resources and areas sustainably and efficiently through the use of interactive mapping.

4. Open Litter Map — Cork, Ireland

Source: https://openlittermap.com/about

Open Litter Map is an interactive mapping platform that uses citizen science and collaborative knowledge to gather the missing information of where plastic garbage collects and who is the cause of it.

This mapping platform allows citizens the opportunity to capture a photo of litter they have come across, geotag it, and upload it to the Open Litter Map database. This geospatial data is then accessible by everyone around the world on their website.

The verified data can be analysed and compared with different countries, regions and cities. The purpose of Open Littler Map is to gain knowledge on where the plastic is and how it is getting there.

In a world with ever pressing global issues like pollution, homelessness and increasing demand for resources, we are going to have to count on each other to fill the voids in data. Space Engagers, Beyond the Noise, ExCiteS and Open Litter Map are four contemporary examples of how we can use interactive community mapping to address global issues.