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March Mapping Madness (in April!)

William Macfarlane Apr 6, 2012 12:37 PM
Posted in group: Dorkbot Boston
Hi dorkbot!  We (parts and crafts) are doing this fun thing tomorrow with balloons and/or kites and cameras.  Maybe you want to come.

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Next week, an exciting event!    Parts and Crafts is teaming up with the Public Laboratory for Open Science and Technology  (PLOTS) for a day of grassroots mapping and aerial photography in Somerville.    

When:  Saturday, April 7, from 10 am - 1 pm
Where:   Hodgkins Park   (Holland Ave, between Davis and Teele Squares),
Who:   Kids, adults, and everyone in between.   No age restrictions, all are welcome. 
Cost:   Free!   (rsvp at  so we know you're coming!)
Some of you are familiar with our previous attempts at aerial mapping.   We're trying again, this time with a better anchoring system  (and a little help from our friends).   

This is part of an ongoing series of mapping trainings, organized by PLOTS in cities and towns all over the world -- in London, Austin, Chicago, Portland, NYC, Jerusalem, Philly, Zurich, and in Somerville.    We're excited to be participating, and hope you can make it out  -- please share widely with friends and networks!

What's grassroots mapping?   It's an inexpensive way to make high quality maps, using balloons, kites, cameras, and simple map-knitting software.   Normally aerial maps are made from satellites and airplanes (for an example of what that typically looks like, go here:   The resulting maps are often expensive and inaccessible.  

How does it work?    By attaching a small camera shooting in continuous mode to a balloon or a kite, you can take high-quality photos of your neighborhood, town, or city and then "knit" them together into a map using the free software Mapknitter.    For this Saturday, we'll be using a weather balloon, a rig made out of a plastic bottle, a cheap point-and-shoot camera, and a lot of string.   Details here:

Why make our own maps?    Maps are often used by those in power to exert influence over territory, or control territorial narratives. "Grassroots mapping" attempts to invert this dynamic by using maps as a mode of communication and as evidence for an alternative, community-owned definition of a territory.   PLOTS got its start in grassroots mapping by mapping the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast, putting cameras on balloons in the Gulf Coast and working with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade to document damage that was underreported by the state.   (modified from PLOTS website)

How do I get involved?   Come to the mapping next Saturday at Hodgkins Park!    RSVP  If you're on this list but not in Boston, you can also check out the March Madness site to find a training in your area:    

PLOTS March Mapping Madness poster


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