The New Cartographers: Crisis Map Mashups and the Mmergence of Neogeographic Practice

By Liu, Sophia B.; Palen, Leysia | Cartography and Geographic Information Science, January 2010 | Go to article overview

The New Cartographers: Crisis Map Mashups and the Mmergence of Neogeographic Practice


Liu, Sophia B., Palen, Leysia, Cartography and Geographic Information Science


Introduction

The mapping of crisis information online is on the rise among nonprofessional cartographers. Map-based "web mashups" result from the application of social media or Web 2.0 technology to existing or developing data sets. Map mashups combine or "mash up" multiple sources of data, which are displayed in some geographic form. Though "participatory" forms of geotechnology--such as Google My Maps--makes maps and geographic information relatively accessible, obligations of accuracy and careful interpretation do fall to the neogeographers who pursue this new form of technical enterprise. The rise of the neogeographer in the hazards and crisis context is of particular interest, as the desire to mitigate crises through some sort of participation and assistance by members of the public is strong. The management of crisis information, and its spatial and temporal modeling, presents particular challenges which are specific to the new map-based forms of social media.

Sociology of Disaster: Models of Spatio-Temporal Behavior

Disaster researchers and practitioners often use spatial and temporal models (Dynes 1970; Powell 1954) to describe and anticipate macro social behavior. Typically, the codification and classification of time-and-space models are important methodological disaster research tools and heuristic devices, since the different disaster phases and zones represent different types of individual and group behavior (Stoddard 1968; Neal 1997). For example, Dynes (1970) describes the geography of disaster events based on a series of concentric zones. The center is an area with very severe impact, which is surrounded by a fringe area with significant damage and disruption. Aid from distant communities passes through the regional and adjacent filter zones to provide resources to the impacted areas.

The following four disaster phases are used in practice to describe macro-behavior: preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. Powell (1954) elaborates this depiction to include eight finer temporal stages. In our own earlier work, we relied on these macro social descriptions of spatial and temporal ordering to help frame a larger set of imminent changes arising from pervasive information and communications technology (ICT) diffusion (Palen and Liu 2007). Neal (1997), however reconsiders the disaster phases and suggests that the staged model limits how we might understand the many diverse behaviors arising in disaster and masks the variety of experiences relative to different populations and stakeholders.

The rise of what is known as Web 2.0 technology supports, inadvertently perhaps, an ability to tease apart actual behavior in disasters and pinpoint the multi-dimensionality of the experience and its effects on social life. In particular, map-based "mashups," through the use of frequently updated data from multiple sources, allow us to "see" micro-behavior spatio-temporally. As such, crisis map mashups are emerging as interesting artifacts in the practical work of reporting on, assisting in, and managing emergencies.

Neogeography

This observation is in line with ideas of neogeography. More than a decade ago in the GIS (Geographic Information System) community, Dangermond (1995), Monmonier (1998), and Krygier (1999) urged that next-generation GIS should be more interactive and accessible to citizens to foster public participation and collaboration in the development and management of geographic databases and any decisions made based on such data. Now in the geography discipline, the notion of "neogeography" has emerged to address a new set of geographic concerns with the rise of such enabling technologies as web mapping services and pervasive GPS-enabled devices. Turner (2006) describes neogeography as "a set of techniques and tools that fall outside the realm of traditional GIS" (p. 2). More specifically, it is about "people using and creating their own maps, on their own terms, by combining elements of an existing toolset" (Turner 2006, p. …

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