The Grassroots Mapping project, which aims to put mapping information into the hands of the public using digital cameras, balloons and other everyday items, is creating images that rival anything Google Maps can produce, writes the BBC. Spearheaded by the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) and with support from the 2011 Knight News Challenge, the project is democratizing information in innovative ways.
Interactive mapping has become an increasingly important way to share information about the environment.
“By putting an illustrated guide to camera construction on the back of paper maps and offering tutorials for locals they are teaching people how to put their own equipment together,” writes the BBC.
So far, the project has gathered information otherwise limited to private companies and government agencies to inform citizens about the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, an environmental cleanup of the Gowanus Canal in New York and similar projects in Texas and California. Individuals in Chile and Israel have also used project guidelines to monitor protests in tense situations.
“Over the past year we've produced 60 to 75 maps of different areas of the coast during the oil spill - so we've been printing maps on paper, and then we hand the maps out to the community,” said Shannon Dosemagen in reference to Grassroots’ work in the Gulf Coast. “Our goal is to pick particular places and do long-term monitoring over one to two years.”
Grassroots Mapping’s mission to make geo-location services available and affordable (materials can be gathered for less than $200) mirrors a number of mapping projects funded by the Knight News Challenge. In fact, the project was initially launched with support from MIT’s Center for Civic Media, a News Challenge winner that received additional support from Knight Foundation earlier this year.
For more on PLOTS’ Grassroots Mapping project, including instructions on how to make and submit your own maps, check out their website at publiclaboratory.org. To learn more about how the Knight News Challenge invests in innovative ideas in media and journalism, visit newschallenge.org.