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Community-based Grassroots Mapping with Balloons and Kites in Lima, Peru

Location: Ballroom III Level: Novice
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 4 ratings)

Grassroots Mapping (grassrootsmapping.org) is a series of participatory mapping projects involving communities in cartographic dispute. This January, Jeffrey Warren (unterbahn.com) of the MIT Media Lab and the Center for Future Civic Media (civic.mit.edu) worked with a series of organizations and communities to produce maps with children and adults from several communities in Lima, including the Cantagallos 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, Warren 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.

In this talk, we will review the January projects in Lima, Peru and discuss the ongoing work of activist and community-based grassroots mappers around the world.

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

Photo of Jeffrey Warren

Jeffrey Warren

Grassroots Mapping

The creator of GrassrootsMapping.org, Jeff designs mapping tools, visual programming environments, and flies kites as a fellow in the Center for Future Civic Media, and as a student at the MIT Media Lab’s Design Ecology group, where he created the vector-mapping framework Cartagen. He co-founded Vestal Design, a graphic/interaction design firm in 2004, and directed the Cut&Paste Labs project, a year-long series of workshops on opensource tools and web design in 2006-7 with Lima designer Diego Rotalde. He is a co-founder of Portland-based Paydici.com as well as Weardrobe.com.

Jeff holds a BA in Architecture from Yale University and spent much of that time (and the following years) working with artist/technologist Natalie Jeremijenko, building robotic dogs and so forth. To find out more, visit Unterbahn.com.