Wiki Wednesday: Community Mapping

sanjose.jpgBike trails in San Jose, CA, on OpenStreetMap

As
a kid I used to periodically raid my grandparents’ stash of National
Geographics. Not for photos of women in scant native dress, but for the
way cool maps, with which I would wallpaper my room.

Ironically,
the maps did eventually give way to Paulina Porizkova posters, and the
years have also seen them outmoded — in function, if not aesthetically
— by amazing advances in cartography. (If you haven’t seen it, this New Yorker piece from 2006 is an excellent primer.)

The latest and greatest innovations have brought about a renaissance in community mapping, the subject of this week’s StreetsWiki entry.

Community
Mapping is the creation of a map via a community-driven process,
usually done to map non-traditional features, such as safe biking or
walking routes, local trees and parks, and other aspects of community
life. Community mapping has existed for hundreds of years, but recent
advances in technology, such as GPS’s and online mapping portals like
Google Maps, have allowed the creation of better and more detailed
maps, and have expanded their reach beyond small groups.

OpenStreetMap,
for instance, functions like a Wikipedia for maps. Unlike proprietary
services like Google Maps, OpenStreetMap operates under a Creative
Commons license, and allows users to add and edit information
collaboratively. Google Maps is of course also widely used for
community mapping, Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat and the burgeoning Boston bike network being two examples.

Other projects employ more conventional means — the still-viable, highly-mobile print product — from Bay Area watershed mapping to New York’s official cycling map (now available in PDF form).

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