Annalee Newitz on the Geowankers

The Geowankers email list is where the action is online for locative media hackers, geoweb buffs, and cartogeeks. BB pal Annalee Newitz attended last week's San Francisco Geowankers F2F meeting and wrote up her experience for AlterNet. Rich Gibson, co-author of the excellent Mapping Hacks book, presented at the meeting as did my Institute for the Future colleague Mike Liebhold. From Annalee's article:

Gibson told us that he's currently thinking about how to use technology to deal with the "probability characteristics of space." In other words, how do you create an accurate high-tech map that reflects the fact that a given geographical location has a high probability of being referred to as "the Mission," but at least 10 percent of the time might be referred to as "Noe Valley"?

This kind of question might sound silly if you look at neighborhoods purely as the creation of real estate companies that have rigid ideas about where the Mission ends and Noe Valley begins. But geowanking is all about making maps democratic and creating representations of space that reflect ordinary people's lived experiences. The idea of letting a real estate agency call the shots on where your neighborhood's boundaries are is absurd to a geowanker. Why not just build a digital map in layers so that you can see the real-estate-defined neighborhoods, then click into another layer that shows what ordinary people on the street think are the boundaries, then move to another layer to see where all the rivers run underneath the city?

Liebhold pointed out that as more and more people start creating their own maps and putting them online, we're going to need to invent a system where we know which maps are "trusted" and which are just somebody rambling about how there are many paths to Blue Bottle Coffee from the Haight.