[Guest post by Heath Anderson, City of Appleton GIS Dept.]
GIS (geographic information system) is the procurement, storage, and analysis of spatially related data, while civic hacking relates to the altering of data to solve community-orientated problems. Such problems could be anything from voter registration to park information. Many of said problems have a spatial component that is quantifiable; these components could be a point representing an address or a polygon representing a park. However, without additional information, a polygon is just a blob and a point is just a dot. GIS enables the user to not only accurately visualize the location of a feature with real world context, but also identify additional values of said feature. For example, one park feature could contain the following information: park name, address, hours, picture of the park, related website, playground information, and other amenities.
What do civic hacking and GIS have in common? They are both service-based elements that stem from a need or a problem. GIS has evolved exponentially in the past decade, from mostly analytics to 3D mapping and mobile-friendly components. The forging of these two ideas, GIS and civic hacking, is found when peering through the lens of a geohipster. An article written by Gavin Schrock for Professional Surveyor Magazine outlines a geohipster and what makes that person tick.
‘If one thing characterized geohipsters, it is developing solutions if current ones do not meet their needs…
The image above represents data extracted from an open source warehouse and tells the story of contributors to OpenStreetMap (http://geography.oii.ox.ac.uk/?page=openstreetmap)
The Twitter hashtag definition is “#geohipster - the vanguard of the neo geo geospatial communities, savvy with GIS, open source geospatial, associated social media and collaborative software development sites like Github. They are professionals, pro-sumers, bloggers, customizers, and technicians. They are the way after legacy GIS. They love maps, mapping, they know a surprising amount about projections, PostGreSQL, PostGIS, ARC-this-and-that, etc. Not exclusively young but open minded.”’I will not pretend to know much about civic hacking, as the DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015 will be the first one I have attended, but both GIS and civic hacking enthusiasts seem to possess an understanding of, and work with, open source data, free exchange of ideas and collaboration to better the community. In summation, GISers and civic hackers can feed off each other, creating imaginative methods of gathering data and telling stories using images.