The Need for a Social Mapping

There’s a reason I told Planning magazine I’m excited about “more accessible and interactive approaches to the massive amounts of GIS data that planners have.” After all, it’s a type of data that has not yet been adapted to truly seamless social platform. I sketched out how such a system could be applied to vacant property.

That’s precisely what a group in New Orleans is working on in a project that has been entered in the NetSquared Mashup Challenge.

Here’s the idea:

Imagine a Google map that allows one to select a historical view of the topography, New Orleans before or after the storm. Imagine being able to integrate past and present. Being able to view current data on the recovery on old Sanborn maps. And historic data from archives on contemporary maps. And being able to turn on and off different sets of data simultaneously. In this way, one could see if a historic house is on a demolition list. Imagine that. Making information more accessible, meaningful and interesting.

Mapping gives life to spreadsheets (demolition lists or building permits). Suddenly these droning lists of addresses form patterns and relationships. We can now go to a house, photograph it, blog it and sometimes actually save it. Usually not. But in the very least, it has been documented before it’s history. The current push for demolition before the FEMA money runs out weighs heavy on the collective soul of New Orleans. …

Mapping is destiny and people all over the city are trying to map the madness away. Citizen created content in Google Maps track housing demolitions, housing project locations, shootings in 2008, mid-century modern architecture, unopened schools, schools to be demolished, the Housing Conservation District Review Committee (HCDRC) agenda, and of course New Orleans music.

Interestingly, another featured project called Your Mapper proposes some of the same functionality. Let’s hope a powerful system available for broad use emerges.

> NetSquared: City of New Orleans: A Mashup for Citizen Monitoring of the Recovery
> XXNO: Manifesto for a Mashup
> Think New Orleans: Help Me Obtain Funding for Online Mapping of the Recovery

Author: Rob Goodspeed