Velo, Rapido | This is about a few different things.
Whenever I ask for interesting examples of google maps in advocacy or organizing, I get referred to the Chicago crime blotter. Aside from the fact that they don’t propose any actual action, and so hardly qualify as either advocacy or organizing, I am consistently amazed at how uncritical my peers and colleagues are of this project. Look it over people! Yes, there are more deeply offensive projects out there. No, I do not wish to be the victim of a homicide, nor do I particularly want to raise children smack in the middle of the local heroin market, but the whole project takes such a simplistic view of crime and victims it makes my head spin. The map of bribery doesn’t even begin to touch the persistent greasing of palms that goes un-challenged off the streets. In fact, if the map were your only source of information, you’d easily think bribery in Chicago is entirely concentrated in the same areas where all manner of drug busts are already happening.
You aren’t seeing a picture of corruption busting, bribery happens all the time, but the map only shows crimes that have been reported. This may come as a great shock, but when the Attorney General concludes an investigation, he does not call the Police Department to report a crime. The map is all street crimes: the crimes people report, not the corporate, white collar crimes that potentially cost Illinoisans millions of dollars. The map doesn’t show environmental violations: toxic leaks, inadequately ventilated factories. Those crimes follow other channels when they are prosecuted. I actually think it is a pretty smart google map, from a technical perspective. I am genuinely interested in seeing more people take public data and map it. But when I ask my friends for good uses of web based mapping in organizing and advocacy, I expect more. I expect someone, somewhere to lead me to a googlemaps take on crashstat (rumor has it that one is in the works, I’m still waiting). On NY Turfhas a couple of good maps that illustrate propose monster real estate developments, but the sad cynic in me believes that the Atlantic Yards are going to be built, all six acres of them in all their 40 foot glory. I really hope I’m wrong, but I don’t have much hope. However, if the project is reigned in at all it will be at least in part because of maps that really illustrate life in the shadow of a 40 story high rise.
The one really smart google map I’ve seen is actually from The Cato Institute. I’m no fan of most of their work, but like all good libertarians they dislike the drug war as much as they dislike national forests. Their map of botched police raids is a pretty textbook example of what organizers could be doing with google maps. Maps of whales in the puget sound are more than just interesting but I need an organizing hook. Random local politicians using google maps (thanks Philip Smith) are cool, but they don’t make for a compelling workshop. I’ve looked through Google Maps Mania, but it is so dense with subway maps and beer maps and craigslist apartments projected onto maps that I haven’t dug up much in the way of organizing maps.
And so I ask you dear readers, where are all the mappers at? Where is the google maps take on Southern Echo teaching a GIS workshop so that people could propose alternatives to planned resdistricting in Mississippi? (Southern Echo has some weird password action on their website, so I’ve used the wayback machine to bring you a quote, in lieu of a link:
Using GIS to Support Community Organizing
In June 2004, Southern Echo held a 3-week residential training school on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills and tools for 3 Echo staff and representatives from 6 grassroots black organizations in Mississippi, half of whom were in their teens and twenties. Participants focused on building data tables and using them to create maps and charts through which community people can visualize complex data that usually appears in hard-to-read tables or lengthy texts full of technical language. The goal is to enable activists to use GIS to support organizing work. This is the first phase in a 4-year plan to train a cadre of activist demographers in Mississippi and the southern region. Later phases will focus on redistricting skills and tools. Participants formed the MS Demography Group (MDG) to pool their resources and obtain additional training in support of community organizing work in local communities.
There must be more out there.