Sunday, September 20, 2020
Who Maps the World?

For the maximum of human records, maps had been very extraordinary,” said Marie Price, the first lady president of the American Geographical Society, appointed a hundred sixty-five years into its 167-12 months records. “Only a few people got to make maps, and that they have been carefully guarded, and they were not participatory.” That’s slowly converting, she stated, thanks to democratizing tasks like OpenStreetMap (OSM).

OSM is the self-proclaimed Wikipedia of maps: It’s a loose and open-supply caricature of the globe, created with the aid of a volunteer pool that basically crowd-assets the map, tracing components of the arena that haven’t but been logged. Armed with satellite tv for pc pix, GPS coordinates, neighborhood network insights and map “tasks,” volunteer cartographers identify roads, paths, and buildings in remote areas and their very own backyards. Then, experienced editors affirm every element. Chances are, you use an OSM-sourced map every day without knowing it: Foursquare, Craigslist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Uber all use it in their path offerings.

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When industrial organizations like Google decide to map the not-yet-mapped, they use “The Starbucks Test,” as OSMers like to call it. If you’re within a positive radius of a series espresso keep, Google will spend money on maps to make it clean to discover. Everywhere else, especially in the growing global, different virtual cartographers ought to fill in the gaps.

But no matter OSM’s democratic ambitions, and in spite of the long (albeit ordinarily hidden) history of girl cartographers, the OSM volunteer network continues to be composed overwhelmingly of guys. A comprehensive statistical breakdown of gender fairness inside the OSM space has now not but been conducted, however, Rachel Levine, GIS operations and schooling coordinator with the American Red Cross, stated specialists estimate that simplest 2 to five percent of OSMers are girls. The expert area of cartography is likewise male-ruled, as is the smaller subset of GIS professionals. While it would comply with that the numbers of mappers of shade and LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming mappers are similarly small, that information has long gone in large part unexamined.

There is one arena in which women’s OSM involvement, particularly, is developing, but: inside agencies like Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and Missing Maps, which work to develop parts of the map maximum needed for humanitarian comfort, or at some point of herbal failures.


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HOT has worked on high-profile tasks like the “crisis mapping” of Puerto Rico within the wake of Hurricane Maria, and on humble but essential ones, like helping one Zimbabwe network get on their town’s trash pickup listing by using highlighting piles of trash that littered the floor. Missing Maps is an umbrella institution that aids it, made from a coalition of NGOs, health groups like the Red Cross, and records partners. It works to boom the range of volunteers contributing to humanitarian mapping initiatives by way of teaching new mappers, and organizing hundreds of map-a-thons a yr.

In HOT’s maximum latest gender fairness have a look at, it found that 28 percentage of remote mappers for its projects were ladies. And in micro-furnish-funded area projects, when agencies worked directly with people from the groups they were mapping, girls individuals made up forty eight percent.

That wide variety dwarfs the share in the relaxation of the sphere, but parity (or majority) remains the last aim. So in honor of International Women’s Day, Missing Maps organized about 20 feminist map-a-thons across the united states of America, such as one on the American Red Cross headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C., led by using Levine in conjunction with a group of women volunteers. Price spoke at the visitor of honor, and around 75 human beings attended: participants of George Washington University’s Humanitarian Mapping Society, cartography fans, Red Cross volunteers, and employees. There were ladies and men; new mappers and old.

I grew to become up with my laptop and not one cartographical clue.

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The project we launched into collectively was commissioned by way of the Tanzanian Development Trust, which runs a safe residence for girls in Tanzania dealing with the hazard of genital mutilation. Its people pick out up and accurately shelter girls from neighboring villages who worry they’ll be cut. When a female calls for help, outreach people need to understand where to go pick them up, however, they’re caught in a Google Maps lifeless sector. Using OSM, volunteers from all over the international—which include ladies on the floor in Tanzania—are filling inside the blanks.

Much of the location round Tanzania’s secure house isn’t recorded on Google Maps. By logging buildings and streets on OSM, volunteers can help outreach people navigate. (OpenStreetMap)
When it comes to increasing get entry to to fitness offerings, safety, and training—matters girls in many growing nations disproportionately lack—equitable cartographic illustration topics. It’s the those who make the map who shape what suggests up. On OMS, buildings aren’t just recognized as homes; they’re “tagged” with specifics in keeping with mappers’ and editors’ choices. “If to five percent of our mappers are women, which means simplest a subset of that get[s] to decide what tags are important, and what tags get our attention,” stated Levine.

Sports arenas? Lots of those. Strip clubs? Cities include multitudes. Bars? More than one should possibly comprehend.

Meanwhile, childcare centers, fitness clinics, abortion clinics, and strong point clinics that address girls’ fitness are hugely underrepresented. In 2011, the OSM network rejected an appeal to feature the “childcare” tag at all. It becomes ultimately approved in 2013, and in the time considering, it’s been used more than 12,000 times.

Doctors had been tagged greater than 80,000 instances, even as healthcare centers specializing in abortion were tagged handiest 10; gynecology, close to 1,500; midwife, 233, fertility clinics, none. Only one building has been tagged as a home violence facility, and 15 as a gender-based totally violence facility. That’s not due to the fact these centers don’t exist—it’s due to the fact the men mapping them don’t recognize they do or don’t care sufficient to observe.

In 2011, the OSM network rejected an appeal to add the “childcare” tag in any respect. It turned into eventually authorized in 2013, and within the time on the grounds that, it’s been used greater than 12,000 times.

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So a good deal of the importance of mapping is readily navigating the world thoroughly. For girls, especially women in much less advanced nations, that protection is tougher to relaxed. “If we tag something as a public toilet, does that suggest it has centers for girls? Does it mean the facilities are secure?” asked Levine. “When we’re tagging especially, ‘This is a girl bathroom,’ meaning somebody has gone in and stated, ‘This is on the market to me.’ When ladies aren’t doing the tagging, we simply get the restroom tag.”

“Women’s geography,” Price tells her college students, is made from extra than bridges and tunnels. It’s shaped by asking such things as: Where on the map do you feel secure? How would you stroll from A to B in the city while not having to appear over your shoulder? It’s difficult to map those intangibles—however now not possible.