Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

First aerial maps produced by citizens featured on Google Earth and Google Maps

April 18, 2012, 12:42 p.m., Posted by Shannon Dosemagen

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.

publiclabIn 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 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.

Digital workshops in Charlotte help improve media literacy

April 18, 2012, 11:30 a.m., Posted by Dr. Alexis Carreiro


The James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University teaches digital media and literacy to students and the community, with Knight Foundation support.  Here, Dr. Alexis Carreiro describes some of the school's recent digital citizenship workshops.

Recently, five faculty members from Queens University of Charlotte led ten digital citizenship workshops throughout Charlotte, N.C.

The digital citizenship program, which I created, is part of a required Modern Citizenship course at the university. The course, which all traditional undergraduates take in their freshman year, explores what it means to be a citizen in contemporary society and encourages students to contribute to the communities in which they live.

This spring, part of the course focused on digital citizenship and how it relates to modern society. It's part of the Knight School’s “Knight Vision” that aims to help people see how they can use digital technology in meaningful ways that contribute to the social health and long-term viability of their communities.

Radio show gives community a voice in addressing environment and health issues

April 17, 2012, 2:46 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

This post is one of a series focused on how community foundations are investing in news and information projects to make an impact on issues they care about. The following video was filmed during Knight’s 2012 Media Learning Seminar, where five community foundations gave brief, TED-like talks on how the projects they launched are impacting their cities.

In the video above, Tycoma Miller shared how the West Anniston Foundation has taken a leadership role in addressing environmental threats facing her Georgia community by investing in a community information project.

For nearly 40 years, the city of 25,000 was unknowingly exposed to PCB contaminants from a nearby chemical factory, which led to a myriad of health problems including cancer and diabetes.  

With support from Knight Foundation, the community foundation launched the weekly radio program West Anniston Today to provide a way for people to ask questions and share stories.

A handful of calls turned into hundreds a month. Miller described how the show not only gave people a voice,  but also the ability to share what mattered most to them about what to do moving forward.