• Introductions & Icebreakers
  • What is mapping?
  • Why mapping?
  • Some examples
  • Your interests?

What is mapping?

Mapping is the act of organizing geographical based information and visually displaying the patterns and stories that the data tells on a map.

geospatial revolution

Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4

What can maps be used for?

  • Participatory Mapping
    • The process of making a map and the map itself can be representative of diverse communities, voices, stories, and information.
      • Example: Check out HarrassMap.org! The map was “born as a response to the persistent problem of sexual harassment on the streets of Egypt, to which society has become increasingly tolerant. It is the first independent initiative to work on the issue.” The map serves as online reporting tool that supports an effort to break stereotypes, stop making excuses for perpetrators, and to convince people to speak out and act against harassment.
  • Decision Making
    • Because maps display information specific to location, hopefully with a more simplified visual representation, it may help political figures, activists, citizens, and community leaders make informed decisions.
      • Example: Let us say that we have mapped out all of the fast-food restaurants and supermarkets in Watsonville in order to determine the degree of accessibility to healthy food. Our map might easily show that there is more access to unhealthy fast-food retailers in a certain concentrated area. This information might help the local government officials determine where to allocate their attention and resources to address the problem.
  • Sharing Critical Information
    • One of the ultimate goals of making a map is to share the information displayed on it. More specifically, maps are meant to make this information more comprehendible and easily accessible to both the general public and key decision makers. This is important as this information may be critical, time-sensitive, and/or require immediate response.
      • For example: Ushahidi (Swahili for “testimony” or “witness”) in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election (see 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis), collected eyewitness reports of violence reported by email and text message and placed them on a Google Maps map (now as a map hosting website, they offer Crowdmap as a tool for others to create their own participatory maps). Here, Ushahidi made both the process of making the map and the map. a sharing process as it required others to report the violence and then the information collected was publicly available.
  • Documentation and Evaluating Impact
    • The information recorded and displayed on maps can help with documenting change over time. This is very useful for evaluating negative or positive impact because you can compare information from different time periods to show improvement, trends, or regressions. Most often this objective is utilized to highlight your organization’s social impact, a growing need in the area, or analyzing change.
      • For example: If you are working with an at-risk youth program at a school, you can map out the 10 block radius around the school to show how there are less crime incidents as result of your program’s work. You can use a tool like Crime Reports, which maps crime reports by ZIP codes.
  • Creating Impact
    • Another ultimate goal of mapping is to create some type of impact in addition to simply visually sharing the information. You might think “well duh”, but creating an impact is not always the goal for everyone. I have seen plenty maps demonstrating the tweet responses to Beyonce’s album release. Creating an impact through mapping is a powerful basis for advocacy and transparency when are speaking about mapping for social justice.
      • Example: In the case of Colombia, a map was created that combined data on the frequency of human rights violations caused by military officials with the locations of US government funding for military operations. The map portrayed the links between US military funding and local human rights violations in Colombia, and thus challenged the US government’s claim that the funding did not have any adverse effects in Colombia.
  • Showing Need- 
    • If you have been a student of our Sociology 30 series, then you know how important it is to SHOW a need when writing a proposal. Maps are a great way to visually display this need.
      • Example: Think about your proposal’s need. How would you demonstrate it through a map? Remember you are trying to demonstrate the quantifiable link between your services and community need. You think a community needs computer literacy classes for adults? Make a map that demonstrates the accessibility of computers or internet in the area. Maybe you can make a map showing how many people are considered computer literate in the area by age. The ideas are endless as long as it supports your argument.


Terms and Concepts

You will write these!

Digital Mapping Tools

  • Ushahidi
  • Social Explorer
  • Google My Maps
  • Google Earth
  • Google Pro Earth
  • Google Fusion Tables
  • MapBox
  • TileMill
  • OpenStreetMap
  • ArcGIS

Digital Mapping Resources

Challenges and Lessons:

  • Publicly available maps that fit your needs are always great! However, with any information out there, make sure that the data sources are credible.
  • Sometimes maps share a great deal of critical information about people, causes, location, etc. Therefore, we need to continually think about both our data and our audience as this information can land in the wrong hands. For example, you might have a map that allows reports from the general public. If there is identifiable information about the reporter or anyone else, they might be at risk for being captured.
  • You might not always find all of the data that you need to create your map so you have to go the extra mile to gather that information on your own (i.e lat/lat coordinates, buildings, reports, statistics). For example, you might be looking to add information about a rural town in Mexico but there there aren’t any maps that have the town’s streets mapped out yet. You might have to go out there and get that information before adding anything else.

Map Examples:


For a better understanding of mapping moving forward, for our homework this week we will be defining key mapping terms. Your homework for this week will be to define and explain each of the following terms.

  1. Cartography
  2. Geography
  3. Map
  4. Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  5. Geocoding
  6. Reference Maps
  7. Thematic
  8. Map Layers
  9. Map Markers
  10. Basemaps

I’d appreciate if you guys attempted your best at these definitions. They will help you throughout the rest of the coarse and we will be using them in future classes.


Send your work to mapping@labs.everettprogram.org