Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Manifesto for a Mashup

At the end of the month Alan Gutierrez of Think New Orleans, Andrew Turner of Mapufacture and I will pitch a Mashup for Citizen Monitoring of the Recovery in the 2008 NetSquared Mashup challenge.

Challenge, indeed. As an artist-curator-historian, I'm not exactly Silicon Valley savvy.

But I do know what I like in a map: Layers. Think about this with me.

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.

As we plan for the future, we ought to revisit the past. I'm thinking about Storyville and the Iberville Housing Projects. The "Big Four" are almost gone. What will rise up in their place? Can we see their old street grids amidst the live oaks? I'm thinking about having a better understanding of the history of all our neighborhoods, not just the 19th century ones.

The 20th century city of New Orleans suffered the most from the flooding. It had nothing to do with race or income. It's geography. 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.

I'm obviously keen on the idea of integrating geo-tagged photos as well. So this Mashup could potentially link recovery data, archival data and geo-tagged photos into a central space with layers of historic and contemporary maps of the city. The humble hope: to assist the recovery of New Orleans by increasing awareness of what we have, what is lost and for what we will fight to the end to preserve.


Megan Lubaszka said...

I looove the layers idea - so poetically described, too! I hope they take your advice!

Alan Guiterrez said...

Today I was speaking with someone about the Netroots Nation '08 project. I talked about NetSquared to set the context. The person basically offered to let me put all this stuff on their website. I said quickly that I have my own website, and then went into my spiel about the recovery portal.

Which is something that I'm constantly bumping up against in New Orleans. Especially outside of the new social networks developed since the flood. When the nonprofit powers that be in our town think of the web, they think of Yahoo! The web is a place to get news and information.

The web is where they get their news and information, it's not where they put their news and information. They imagine a directory to all the official websites, or a place where press releases can be gathered.

When I hear about how we need to create a one website were people can go to get all their recovery information, I say, they already have that website. It's called Google. If you'd only publish on line, in the open, we'd all be able to find exactly what we're looking for.

Which is how today, I came across the word ecosystem. I didn't have it ready in response to the, oh, yes, you can build our website for us comment, but we can work it into the manifesto.

We're seeking support for a grassroots GIS ecosystem, and we're looking to speak for it. This instance, we're going to talk about our mashup, but we'll have plenty of opportunity to talk about the very nature of this new self-government that is tenuously held together by the adhesive of social media and social change. said...

Seems like a great idea to me. A well-crafted map can speak louder than words or data alone.

NOAA's charting and geodesy info may help too.