The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a 2011 Knight News Challenge winner, helps make technology work for communities. Here, its Director of Community Engagement, Shannon Dosemagen, blogs about an exciting new development.
Yesterday, we announced that 45 Public Laboratory maps had been integrated into Google Earth. Adding maps to Google Earth means that our community-created imagery, made with cameras attached to balloons and kites, will reach even more people as this is a hugely popular platform for people to view geographic data. The integration of Public Laboratory maps transforms the representations of the earth available on Google Maps/Earth because these maps are made by communities and they document sites of civic concern -- wetlands impacted by the Gulf Oil Spill, Superfund Sites in New York City, natural gas wells on personal property and social protests. Imagine a Google Earth where the most high resolution imagery of sites of civic and environmental concern is made by local communities whose lives and livelihood they influence. This is the kind of outcome that helps to fulfill the hopes that brought me to this project -- organizing communities to make their own maps of the Gulf Oil Spill.
In April 2010, I met Jeff Warren and Stewart Long, two of the other co-founders of Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science. The BP oil spill had just happened and in a mad dash effort, Jeff and Stewart had come to the Gulf Coast to help train residents and volunteers on using balloons and kites to map the oil spill, before, during and after it reached the Gulf Coast shoreline. Throughout the spill, they, and others, provided continuing remote support and the Gulf Coast team trained and organized the efforts of 100+ volunteers who collected over 100,000 images, resulting in over 50 maps of the region from during the time of the spill. With these images as a base, in spring 2011, Public Laboratory created the Public Laboratory Archive, modeled on the data.gov site. In summer 2011, Public Laboratory released the first Grassroots Mapping Forum of Wilkinson Bay, Louisiana. Since then, we’ve worked towards providing libraries in the Gulf Coast region with digital data sets of maps and images from the period of the oil spill and have been feeding images into Open Aerial Map.