Grassroots Mapping is a series of participatory mapping projects involving communities in cartographic dispute. Seeking to invert the traditional power structure of cartography, the grassroots mappers used helium balloons and kites to loft their own “community satellites” made with inexpensive digital cameras.

Embed maps from Cartagen Knitter

March 31st, 2010 by Jeffrey Warren

Progress on Cartagen Knitter continues; a lot of detail-work but you can now embed maps you make on your own website with the handy “Embed” link.

Above, the Cantagallo community as mapped in January.

Neutrality and cartography in Cantagallo

February 17th, 2010 by Jeffrey Warren

Another day, another new grassroots map! After working with residents of Cantagallo at the beginning of February to produce the first map of their community with Daniel Miracle of Escuelab, we met with members of another of the 3 groups of Shipibo living in the same zone in the center of Lima. Upon seeing the maps we’d made, they were excited to make one also.

Sara Gomez of CEDRO, who introduced us to Sr. Ricardo, the president of one of the multiple political groups in Cantagallo, pointed out that if we make a map, we should do the best to serve all parties who live in Cantagallo – meaning that, among other things, we should create a single map of the entire settlement, collaborating with as many groups as we can, and distribute it as widely as possible. The situation was complex – the political groups don’t break down along clear geographic lines, but they are engaged in geographic dispute, and are submitting separate bids for state recognition. I’m still struggling with how to aid these groups in their bid for land title without getting pulled into a local political conflict — if that’s even possible. We cannot say, for example, that this mapmaking is a neutral act – but we can try to create tools which support equal access to geodata, and which are hard to use in exclusionary ways.

It remains to be seen how this plays out, but at the very least, we were able to work with a Señor Ricardo – president of one of the other Shipibo groups – to make a more complete map. Politics aside, once you get outside and start flying balloons, everyone becomes an excited kid, at least for a while.

My hope is that these maps will support all parties’ claims to title in their negotiations with the Municipality more than they create or further aggravate disputes between the various groups in Cantagallo. I’ll be staying in close contact with my friends there to see what happens.

Completed, printed map of Juan Pablo II!

January 30th, 2010 by Jeffrey Warren

Late Wednesday I finally finished the first draft rectification of the kite/balloon images from Juan Pablo II and also of Cantagallo; I took a cab out to Surco to where they have plotters and ran off a couple big maps for each community. On Thursday, Carla, Nancy, and the CEDRO teachers stayed out the whole day in Villa el Salvador because there was a parent teacher meeting at 6pm. In the meantime we got out the big map and all the kids found their homes (just like in Google Maps, right?) and outlined them on trace paper.

The best part of the day was meeting the parents and showing them all the great work the kids had done on both the history “project” and the “future” project. The model of the community in 7 years (as mentioned in a previous post) was especially exciting. See all pictures of the history/future projects on Flickr.

And finally, we presented the completed map of Juan Pablo II to the parents as well. Since the kids had outlined homes and such, we were able to show the president of the community (several of the leaders came) a completed map with annotations. He seemed pretty excited and we’re meeting up with him on Tuesday to talk more about it, and possibly stitch the map we’ve made onto an overall community plan they already have. This should help them fill in detail like homes and streets.

The meeting was at night, so we had a free afternoon, giving Cesar, Jesus, Jian, and a bunch of other kids the chance to build a really huge kite from bamboo and trash bags.

The kites didn’t all fly (Cesar’s did!) but we learned a bit about what makes a good kite. Next time we’ll try for a really huge one that is still stable.

What is Grassroots Mapping?

January 27th, 2010 by Jeffrey Warren

A group of activists, educators, technologists, and community organizers now known as Public Laboratory came together to organize the Gulf Oil Mapping project. Since May 2010, we have been working with New Orleans-based Louisiana Bucket Brigade to get Gulf Coast residents out on boats and along beaches to produce high-resolution aerial imagery of the spill’s effects. All the imagery from this project is being released into the public domain

Read more

How it started

This January 2010, Jeff Warren worked with a series of organizations and communities to produce maps with children and adults from several communities in Lima, including the Cantagallo settlement of Shipibo on the bank of the Rimac and the Juan Pablo II community in Villa El Salvador.

Seeking to invert the traditional power structure of cartography, the grassroots mappers used helium balloons and kites to loft their own "community satellites" made with inexpensive digital cameras. The resulting images, which are owned by the residents, are georeferenced and stitched into maps which are 100x higher resolution that those offered by Google, at extremely low cost. In some cases these maps may be used to support residents' claims to land title. By creating open-source tools to include everyday people in exploring and defining their own geography, we hopes to enable a diverse set of alternative agendas and practices, and to emphasize the fundamentally narrative and subjective aspects of mapping over its use as a medium of control.

(Funded in part by the Legatum Center at MIT and the Center for Future Civic Media at MIT)

Grassroots Mapping with the Shipibo in the center of Lima

January 23rd, 2010 by Jeffrey Warren

Yesterday turned out to be a fantastic day – Daniel Miracle and others from Escuelab took me out to visit a community called Cantagallo which they’ve been working with for some weeks. Daniel sets up TV transmitters and creates local TV stations with a range of ~500 meters for only about $300.

The Cantagallo community is a group of Shipibo, a group native to the Amazon region of Peru, near Pucallpa. About 100 families have moved here to the bank of the river Rimac here in Peru, on top of a landfill, starting about 9 years ago. They’re currently in negotiations to gain a title to the land they’ve been living on, which the Escuelab folks believe belongs to the Municipality of Lima. They invited me out to come make maps with them in the hopes that the resulting data can support their territorial claim. Seeing a community so tightly knit, isolated on top of a small hill, in the middle of a metropolis of 11 million people, was pretty stunning.

The Shipibo kids were very sweet and with the exception of one kid who threw a rock at the balloons and popped one (he was sorry and pretty sad afterwards when I explained we’d used all our helium and couldn’t send the camera up anymore), very helpful with the kites and the balloons. There was some wind but we couldn’t get the kites to pull consistently, so we inflated 4 balloons and that worked fabulously! We managed to take clear, detailed photos of the entire site, and I rectified them last night in just about an hour. I’m doing a rectifying workshop at Escuelab today and have also promised to show Nancy and Carla from Manzanita “A” how to do this. See above the resulting map overlaid on Google Earth imagery, which looks to be about 3-4 years old. And of course nothing is shown on a standard paper street map of Lima:

I thought it was really interesting that the community still actively uses the Shipibo language, but also that there’s a debate among parents there as to whether it should be taught; some think that Spanish alone would be more useful for their kids. The state-run school there is bilingual. Other aspects of the Cantagallo community also show their dual desires to hold on to their cultural roots while still being successful in modern Lima. According to Daniel, even their choice of location – next to the Rimac river – was because they were accustomed to living next to a river and fishing.

We also managed to take a picture of a map the Shipibo of Cantagallo are using as part of their title negotiations – and hope to fill it out with streets, homes, etc. More on this soon.

And as we’ve been having a lot of success with paper mapping with kids in Juan Pablo II, we made a big collage map with the Cantagallo kids as well. We had a lot of help from Layner Morih, a young Shipibo guy who has a great rapport with the kids – he encourages them to speak in both Spanish and Shipibo. You can see him in a purple shirt helping assemble the drawn map.

Lots more pictures on Flickr

Continued kite-flying and paper mapping

January 21st, 2010 by Jeffrey Warren

Quick update – we’re continuing to fly kites and take pictures but we’re waiting for our ‘perfect day’ of kite flying… so far we’ve had a rough time with the wind and haven’t yet gotten the cameras high enough to take an overall picture. But we’re trying again Saturday in Juan Pablo II. Above, we asked the kids to draw pictures of their houses, and as a group activity, we organized them into a map to get a better idea of how the community is shaped.

Tomorrow I’ve been invited by some activists and artists I met at Escuelab to come out to a community called Cantagallo in the center of Lima, where an entire community from the Amazon region of Peru has relocated as a block to the bank of the river Rimac. They’re doing a project there and are really excited about making a map – and the community is looking to establish legal tenure. Perfect! I’ll post some pictures on Saturday.

Below, Sandy from CEDRO examines an aerial photograph we took last Thursday. Since the Google imagery, the residents of Juan Pablo II have added an entirely new street, and completely reorganized their homes… the Google map is badly outdated.