Friday, May 1, 2015

Part 1: OpenStreetMap And Civic Hacking

This is part one of a two-part on OpenStreetMap, an open source mapping tool that can be used for civic hacks. According to Wikipedia,
"OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world...Created by Steve Coast in the UK in 2004, it was inspired by the success of Wikipedia and the preponderance of proprietary map data in the UK and elsewhere. Since then, it has grown to over 1.6 million registered users, who can collect data using manual survey, GPS devices, aerial photography, and other free sources."
The combination of the Internet, low cost GPS equipment (global positioning system), open source software, crowdsourcing, and easy access to frequently updated aerial photography resulted in OSM being created and becoming a useful tool for many people around the world. Because it is open source, OSM is especially well-suited for civic hackers to use in creating open tech government tools and resouces.

Appleton, WI Area Map -- OpenStreetMap
The article "The Democratization of Mapmaking: The Result of a Potent Digital Revolution" talks about how mapping tools like OSM are making maps more useful and a part of our everyday lives.
"We see them every day, popping up on our Twitter feeds, filtered through blogs, or even scattered throughout the New York Times: maps portraying not the usual locations or destinations, but data...“The map user has now become the map creator,” is how Fraser Taylor put it to me in an interview. The director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University, Taylor is one of the world’s leading cartographers...He describes what’s going on as an enormous cultural shift from a previous era when the mapping of our cities (or countries, or world, for that matter) was placed mainly in the hands of government mapping authorities...“Individuals inside cities and elsewhere are creating maps for themselves and in fact giving us their own narrative of what a cityscape is about. They are telling us what is important to them, and they’re mapping the kinds of things that previously would not be mapped,” he says."
Downtown Appleton, WI -- OpenStreetMap
Another article about mapping tech development, "MapBox Aims For Open Source, Digital Map Revolution," is focused on MapBox, a company that uses OSM data to create new mapping products.
"It's helpful to think of OpenStreetMap (OSM) as the "Wikipedia" of digital maps (although it's not actually tied to Wikipedia). MapBox is an outside private company that uses the OSM data to build maps and mapping software, much of which it makes open source, for anyone to use for free, but some of which is proprietary and which it charges high prices to other companies and government agencies to access...There's no question that now and increasingly so in the coming years, digital mapping accuracy and utility will be a major global issue, as maps and geolocation services are among the most commonly used features on smartphones...MapBox has already developed and published open source tools in order to improve OSM tracing (some of which use Microsoft's Bing Maps), but now they're going to really push even further to make it as easy as possible for newbie volunteer cartographers. MapBox will also work to improve OSM's community webpages, to encourage more volunteers around the globe to help the effort, and improve the OpenStreetMap application programming interface to make it easier for developers and others to tap into OSM data, add to it, or draw upon it for their own apps. "OSM is not about the map itself, it's about the data," Gundersen said..."I see OSM becoming one of the greatest open data sets for all of us around the world," Gundersen said."
OSM has been used quite often in the past few years for disaster response. As explained in "Another Way to Help Humanitarian Efforts in Nepal: Start Mapping,"
"Citizen cartographers around the globe are tracing and checking roads, buildings, and open spaces to assist people on the ground. You can help. The numbers keep rising from the massive earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday. As of Monday morning, authorities confirm more than 3,800 have lost their lives, with at least 6,500 injured...Halfway across the planet, what can a person do?...Go help out the good efforts at OpenStreetMap, the open-source mapping platform powered by citizen cartographers all over the world. Members of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) have been updating Nepal's earthquake-affected regions since Saturday, tracing and checking "roads, buildings, and open spaces (for helicopter landing)" so people on the ground can get where they need to go with accuracy. You don't need to be in Nepal to lend a hand (the OSM platform uses fresh satellite imagery to help you update their map), and you don't need to be a professional cartographer, either. It helps if you've used OSM before, even if only to play around with mapping your own neighborhood. But if you haven't, learning the basics isn't too hard."
I hope you know a little more about OSM now than you did before you read this post. Your assignment for today is to read the Wikipedia entry for OSM, do a Google search for  OpenStreetMap and disaster relief  and look a few of the search result webpages, then come back on Sunday and read the second post about OpenStreetMap And Civic Hacking.


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