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.

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Possible legal role for grassroots mapping in Lima

January 10th, 2010 by Jeffrey Warren

Today I met with Ysabel, Carla, and Nancy, and reviewed the month-long mapping project plan. The meeting went well; all three are excited about the project and we agreed to meet Tuesday morning to head out to Juan Pablo II, the first invasion (what they call the settlements here) we’ll be working in, where we’ll meet CEDRO partner Ernesto, and the kids we’ll be working with. See the “blank spot on the map” above, where Carla and Ysabel sketched in the invasion.

We also identified several potential mapping sites, and they told me that in order to be recognized, inhabitants of invasions are required to submit a map of the area they are claiming, signed by an architect or civil engineer, to the government of Lima. They seem to think that the maps we produce will be accepted, and that the signature is just a formality. I hope this is true; I was prepared to accept that we’d only use the maps as planning tools and as an exploratory process for residents, but I’d secretly hoped that we could play some role in the invasion legitimization process as well. It now seems like that may be possible.

Landed in Lima, found helium

January 8th, 2010 by Jeffrey Warren

Seth Hunter and I landed in Lima Wednesday morning at about 7am, and after resting up a bit, we set out to find some helium for the planned grassroots mapping workshops. A cab driver took us to the Centro de Lima, to Calle Japon (more or less Chinatown) where a lot of party stores can be found. After asking around a bit, we found ourselves in a galeria called Dorado, in which several vendors had large tanks of helium.

After some negotiation we managed to buy 2 small pink tanks of helium which are single-use, for 96 soles each, or about US$34. Some ‘math’ tells me this will fill a single 5-foot diameter balloon, or several 3-foot balloons. This is about double the price of helium in the US, but not prohibitive. If we want to save money, we should lighten the payload so it fits on a single 3-foot balloon, which incidentally is sold here in Lima also, for 36 soles, or about US$13 each.

We’re also prototyping a hot air balloon design (using some guides we’ve found and put on the wiki) and should do a first flight test today. The candles we bought were too weak so we’re trying to buy some Sterno (no luck yet) and may try a beer-can alcohol stove today. I’m dubious about fire safety with airborne fire over a neighborhood with no fire department… but Sterno should be safe, and a small alcohol stove using low concentration rubbing alcohol… we can at least test it here by the hostel and see what the risks are.

We also set up a meeting on Sunday with Ysabel and Carla, friends of mine (Carla works with CEDRO, our partner organization here in Lima) and Hector from Bruce Peru, as well as Ernesto from CEDRO. Hopefully we’ll figure out a working schedule and generally get people excited about the project.