Social Mapping Thoughts from Patrick Meier

As we prepare for the PopTech salon “Social Mapping and Social Change” in Chicago next Wednesday (there is currently a waitlist, and the event will not be streamed, but look for a blog post afterwards and tweets with the #socmap hashtag on Twitter), we are thinking about how social mapping might be defined.


One of the salon speakers, Patrick Meier, is the Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi (PopTech Social Innovation Fellows Erik Hersman and Ory Okolloh are part of the Ushahidi leadership team).

Patrick has blogged extensively on the topic of social mapping; here are a few relevant excerpts:

“From Social Mapping to Crisis Mapping,” December 15, 2008

Social maps are not drawn to scale and are not meant to be complete. The relative size of the symbols representing available resources and infrastructure may denote their importance to a community. Likewise, the relative distance on the map of these assets may also denote how accessible or inaccessible they are to the local community.

Social mapping excercises may capture tacit knowledge of conflict triggers that would simply not surface clearly using a computer-designed map. These maps provide “The View From Below” as opposed to the top-down myopic perspective of “Seeing Like A State.”

“Towards a ‘Theory’ (or analogy) of Crisis Mapping” August 25, 2009

Crises are patterns; by this I mean that crises are not random. Military or militia tactics are not random either. There is a method to the madnes—the fog of war not withstanding. Peace is also a pattern. Crisis mapping gives us the opportunity to detect peace and conflict patterns at a finer temporal and spatial resolution than previously possible; a resolution that more closely reflects reality at the human scale.

“Ushahidi: From Crowdsourcing to Crowdfeeding” March 27, 2009

…Second, local communities are rarely dependent on a single source of information. They have their own trusted social and kinship networks, which they can draw on to validate information. There are local community radios and some of these allow listeners to call in or text in with information and/or questions. Ushahidi doesn’t exist in an information vacuum. We need to understand information communication as an ecosystem.

For more, we look forward to next Wednesday’s conversation and Patrick’s talk at the salon.

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