[OSM-talk] Some thoughts against remote mapping

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Sat Jun 13 14:37:22 UTC 2015


   I'm known for being critical of armchair mapping by people with no
personal connection tho the area being mapped. Whether done for fun, for
money, or to help, I think that in most cases it is a bad idea that runs
against the spirit of OSM.

(I'm willing to concede that there are exceptions, and that sometimes
doing something that's against the spirit may still be useful. But these
are individual cases, to be carefully justified, and remote mapping
should never become anyone's standard mode of contribution.)

Until now I thought that the main exception, one that even I would have
to accept, is mapping for humanitarian purposes.

I was all the more surprised - positively surprised - to read this
thoughtful essay by Erica Hagen, who founded Map Kibera:


I'd encourage everyone to read that. It questions some rarely questioned
assumptions; it even says that mapping by locals doesn't really "count"
if those locals are just doing it for the money (a sentiment that I've
always felt but rarely dared to express, because who can expect locals
in the poorest parts of the world to map "for fun" like privileged
westerners do?).

It also says that "local" isn't "local" if the locals from the wealthy
city map the slum in their midst. I've tended to routinely associate the
call for "more diversity" in OSM as mainly being one for levelling the
gender playing field but this article goes much further.

In some parts the article echoes a rather more acerbic posting written
last month by Gwilym Eades, a university lecturer in London:


which essentially accused humanitarian mapping (and as I would add, any
remote mapping really) of "homogenising, westernising, and colonising"
the map.

I don't agree with everything written in these postings but they
certainly deserve some wider audience, and that's why I am writing this
here - since neither author is on these lists and I haven't seen their
messages mentioned or quoted anywhere.

I think the tl;dr of both these postings could be: "Whenever you give
someone a map by remote mapping, you also take something away from them."


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

More information about the talk mailing list