Mapping as Commons

Mapping the World through Commoning for the Federated Commons

Maps shape our perception, they direct our transitions and they inform our decisions. Who doubts the power of mapping, might think of google-maps‘ impact on the lifes of the many; not all, because there is an alternative: Open Street Map. The difference between the two becomes cristallclear when asking: Who owns the maps? Who owns the data? And who reaps the benefit?

Open Street Map is based on free software. It is owned and governed by you. It is constantly in the making, and open to all those who wish to contribute to it on the basis of the collective Open-Street-Map-community-criteria. Open Street Map is the topographic sister of Wikipedia.

When TransforMap was initiated, back in 2014, the community was seeking to combine the Open Street Map approach with the ambition of making the plethora of socio-economic alternatives – TAPAS: There Are Plenty of AlternativeS – visible. We wanted to add to the many crowdsourced maps a possibility to see TAPAs unfolding at a glance, all at once, at people’s devices, in a userfriendly way without being patronizing nor concentrating data. That was and still is TransforMap’s ambition: to challenge both: the dictatorship of corporate-owned data and the cultural hegemony of a an economy stuck in a neoliberal or neoclassical Market-State framework through bringing plenty of Alternatives to everybodie’s attention, among them: the Commons.

Countless mapping projects around the world have similar ambitions. Just as TransforMap they are committed to enhance the visibility and impact of all those projects, initiatives and enterprises who contribute to a free, fair and sustainable future. However, most of them receive only small attention in mainstream media and general culture, because they are

# utterly disconnected from each other
# partly enclosed on proprietary platforms – like google maps
# built on different taxonomies and
# (luckily) highly diverse in their mapping approach

In short: not interoperable.

Working towards interoperability of the countless alter-maps is widely perceived as a key element for enhancing their impact. Thus, the need for a convergence and for atlassing maps based on a ‚Mapping as a Commons as opposed to ‚Mapping the Commons‘. The former is a mapping-philosophy and crucial for destilling the governance principle of emancipatory mapping projects, the latter is just one out of many ‚objects‘ or ‚items“ to be mapped.

The following lines roughly sketch out our understanding of ‚Mapping as a Commons“. Later on, they might turn into a manifesto for ‚Mapping as Commoning for many many maps and through a multitude of mappers. They are written in an inimperative manifesto form, to be used from now on as a guideline or quick analytical tool to evaluate the own mapping practices.

Mapping as a Commons, what does it mean? (0.2)

The following is based on the raw notes from Commons Space at WSF 2016 and an initial summary by @almereyda. The principles are the condensate of globally dispersed, locally found initiatives which collaborate for building and maintaining a shared mapping commons.

1. Stick to the Commons: as a goal and a practice
The challenge is twofold: contribute to the Commons as a shared resource and do it through commoning. Your mapping project is not a deliverable, nor a service-product to compete on the map-market. Hence, it is paramount to systematically separate commons and commerce and to integrate the insigths (patterns?) of successful commoning-practices into your mapping initiative. Strive for coherence at any moment!

2. Create syntony on the goal
Discuss your common goal and your understanding of „mapping as commoning“ again and again. And again! Everybody involved should resonate on the essentials and feel in syntony with mapping for the Commons through commoning at any time.

3. People’s needs first
Maps provide orientation to common people but also visibility of power and policy-driven agendas. Make sure your map doesn’t feed the power-imbalances. People’s needs trump desires of institutions, donors or clients.

4. Keep an eye on interoperability and use web technology
To map as a commoner implies caring for other mappers needs and concerns. You will take them into account through dialogue with partner-mappers and make sure interoperability is a shared goal.

[5.Contribute to the Federated Commons
Mapping the World through Commoning is a double contribution: among commons projects and initiatives toward a Federate Commons and between Commons projects, solutions or initiatives and other socio-economic alternatives.]

6. Provide open access
Always. To everything.

7. Use free software
Work with free software at all levels is critical, as it is not about the freedom of the software, but about your freedom to further develop your mapping projects according to your own needs.

8. Self-host your infrastructure
Only use technology which allows to be replicated quickly as for instance [@almereyda ?]. Eat your own dogfood [@almereyda, what does it mean?], and document transparently, how you do it. Transparent documentation means understandable documentation.

9. Build on open technology standards
Ensure your map(s), its data and associated mapping applications can be reused on a wide diversity of media and devices. Ergo: hands off proprietarian technologies and their standards. Don’t think about them not even as interim solution. If you do, you risk to add one interim to another and get trapped into dependencies.

10. Make sure you really own your data
‚Mapping as a Commons‘ strives for mapping souvereignity at all levels. In the short run, it seems to be a nightmare to refrain from importing data for geolocation or copying & pasting what you are not legally entitled to. In the long run, it is the only way to prevent you being sued or your data being enclosed. Make sure you really own your data. It prevents you from the real nightmare of at some point loosing your data without being able to do something against.

11. Use free open data licenses
To own your data is important, but not enough. Make sure nobody dumps your common data back into the world of marketization and enclosures. What is in the Commons must remain in the Commons. Free licences protect the result of your collective work at any moment. Make use of them. It’s simple.

12. Guarantee the openness of taxonomies
A taxonomy is incomplete as a matter of fact. It is one out of many entry points to complex social worlds. The more you learn about these worlds the better you can adjust your taxonomy. An open taxonomy allows your peer mappers and users to search it for a concept, link them -via tag- to a parent category, to add missing concepts if you allow for or to merge tag structures.

13. Make the Data Commons thrive through your usage
Link to WikiData and OpenStreetMap from the beginning! It’s just nonsense to maintain your single data set. There is so much to benefit from and contribute to the data commons. Explore abundance and contribute loads to our shared data.

14. Care for your Data Commons
Strive for accuracy and remember at the same time, that there is always subjectivity in data.

15. Protect the ‚maps & atlasses commons‘ legally as commons
Remember: each commons needs protection. Innovative legal forms help to prevent cooptation. Make sure the resulting maps and atlasses own themselves instead of being owned by any specific person or organization.

16. Crowdsource your mapping
Do so whenever you can and for whatever is needed: money, time, knowledge, storing space, hardware, monitoring etc.

Last resort

17. Remember always why you are making the map and who you are making it for. Remember that everyone is a mapmaker. Share what you can and if everything looks dark: take a break, keep calm and continue commoning.

18. Archive the map when it doesn’t work anymore for you. Others might want to build on it, somewhen.


3 Gedanken zu „Mapping as Commons

  1. Pingback: Mapping as Commons | Blog of Collective Intelligence (since 2003)

  2. Pingback: Project Of The Day: Green Map | P2P Foundation

  3. Pingback: Without Commons, there is no Community; without Community, there is no Commons | P2P Foundation

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