6th post - undergraduate geography dissertation

Posted by CarolineH on 27 October 2008 in English (English)

Thank you to all who replied last week. I still have more questions (below)...

First, some of my reflections on the Manchester mapping party that ran over the weekend.I have now been out with a (borrowed)GPS and made a minor contribution to the map. I took a lot of photos as I wandered round what I now realise wasn't a particularly large part of a network of paths within a park, not really sure as I started out what was worth capturing and what might/not make a valid contribution to the map. So I tried to note everything: signposts, cafe's, (permanent)ice cream stand, phonebox, CCTV cameras, animal enclosures/pens within a farm area, open spaces, children's playground, a tunnel, small bridges crossing back and forth over a stream, historic buildings/ Blue Plaques (English Heritage)etc. And then my camera battery ran out, so I had to stop taking photos and start writing notes and taking waypoints. When I returned to the mapping party base, and watched the event organiser re-draw over the tracks, it was fairly satisfying to watch a blank space get filled in, albeit only a small amount.

The main difference in my mapping technique/ practice from that of many (perhaps the majority of?) people, as far as I can tell from the responses I have had via this diary, is that I did not go out mapping alone. I went out in a group of three. Two friends of mine from the University (one male, one female) and I (female) walked around the park together, each with a GPS, walking (for the most part) together and reflecting on the mapping activity and our surroundings as we went along.
So, as a result, we generated three, near identical tracks, with two of us taking the same or similar waypoints. What exactly was the point of this doubling, or tripling up of GPS tracks? Surely a waste of valuable mapping time that could have been spent covering a larger area of the park? Would that not have been a more productive use of our afternoon?

Well, I would suggest that to an extent, yes, perhaps if we had split up and covered a larger area the map may have grown in terms of geographical area covered. But would we have had such an enjoyable day out by ourselves without each other's company; chatting about the OSM project and Map; what to include and what to leave out, why to include it, and who includes what? And we didn't just talk about OSM, we talked about anything that came up in conversation, and stopped for about an hour to have lunch in one of the park cafes.

So here is my question:

This approach seems to differ substantially from the 'form of mapping' that most OSMers / mapping parties adopt (as Richard suggested in response to my last post). Surely this more sociable form of mapping (and by this I mean actually going out mapping together, not just sitting in the pub talking about mapping practice over a beer afterwards) would attract a more diverse crowd along to mapping parties and the OSM project? It would help break down some of the barriers to entry - for example, you probably wouldn't take a child under the age of four or five (or younger still, as evidenced at the Manchester weekend) into a pub in Manchester city centre on a Saturday evening, but you would attend during the day if you knew other families would turn up. And ultimately, will the project not need to encourage a more diverse mix of people in terms of gender and age etc to serve its own interest and continue to exist and update, allowing OSM to perpetuate indefinitely?

Comment from seichter on 27 October 2008 at 20:19

Another point I want to mention: You have three tracks with maybe different GPS hardware. This tends to be much more reliable than one track with occasional offsets. This can be excludeded by majority votes. If you lose connection with all three sensors (e.g. in buildings), the recorded (false) positions will not coincide.

Comment from acrosscanadatrails on 27 October 2008 at 21:04

re: perception of mapping parties (beer afterwords)
You have a point there, perhaps advertising the mapping party in a different light would have an impact. When (I will soon) post a mapping party, i want to post it on craigslist, and other local community sites. I would like to see GeoCachers help out by sharing there tracks. (as well as bmx mountain bikes and motercycles) (might not be interested in the naming of trails, roads. But their tracks are valuable). And they would provide inside on how it works as a different opinion.
Inviting outdoor clubs to be involved.. who are taking the trails anyay. Scouts is an example of a group, and geography students taking field trips.
So in summation, 2 types of mapping parties. 1 for the social and 1 for the technical details. But we could have a 3rd which is a mix. Afterall, GPS Users are anyone who wants to read a digital mobile map.

re: mixing of age
I think i covered it. Hosting or creating a "(local area) OpenSource Map Making Club" says the same thing... but would open the doors wider for anyone to join. ... 'cause it's not necessarily "fun" as in "excitement" but "fun" as i the way doing a crossword, or gigsaw puzzle is "enlightening". ... much different than the term "party". 'Cause yes. .. I dont think it's really a "party" in the creative sense.


Comment from CarolineH on 28 October 2008 at 02:44

In response to acrosscanadatrails: if you do organise a mapping party, try home education blogs/sites - this seemed influential in the social mix that the Manchester mapping weekend generated with 4 families turning up on the first morning (I believe this resulted from a post on geekup which then got posted on to a home education forum - blackadder perhaps has more details...).

With regard to undergrad geography students, from my experience, only 3 of us (myself with invested interest) attended the mapping party despite constant plugs from 2 of our lecturers/OSM enthusiasts. In this case the beer afterwards is probably still the best ad campaign!

With regard to outdoor clubs I would suggest the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme within the UK - my experience involved (very out of date and in some cases useless!) OS maps.


Comment from smsm1 on 28 October 2008 at 14:38

One of the things that you can do with multiple people is to each go down a different path in the park, and then join back up again further down the park. Having multiple traces is useful if there is some error in one of them, or one of the GPS stops working. It's not the first time in the 1.5 years I've been involved in the project that I've lost some mapping data.

Having almost identical tracks shows that the GPSs are all giving the same location. I have heard of some extreme mappers who always use 2+ GPS when mapping, as they don't trust taking just one.

Comment from Jon Porter on 2 November 2008 at 23:13

You are raising a very important debate here. If OpenStreetMap is to become widely used, then it must be welcoming to all, not just to people who like mapping alone.

I really enjoyed the Manchester Mapping Party, learning to collect OSM data for the first time, viewing familiar landscapes with a fresh perspective and meeting new people.

I had two trips out with others. My mapping companion on Saturday morning did not want to survey alone. I was happy to accompany him and to learn from his OSM experience. On the Sunday afternoon I passed on my new skills to a late-arrival at the party who wanted to learn the basics in the short time available. I enjoyed both trips out, discussing the landscape we encountered and what features to record.

Mapping on my own was enjoyable too, but it was a different experience. I felt more self-conscious when stopping to make notes at waypoints and the mapping seemed more of a job to be done than something to be savoured. Certainly I would have liked a companion when I was heckled on the canal towpath! Safety is an important consideration – when surveying it is accepted good practice to work in pairs and to share an intended route with colleagues if alone.

Meeting experienced mappers at the party left me with the impression that people who have mapped large areas (often alone) are regarded as the most valuable OSMers. In terms of area covered, this is hard to dispute. However, one of the key strength of OSM over other maps is the local knowledge that it provides. The more people that get involved the richer this knowledge will be. Also, people who have contributed to the map, even in a minor way, will be much more likely to encourage others to use OSM.

A repeated motto throughout the OSM website and in the mapping party adverts is: 'have fun'. It's easier to have fun when you're with other people!


Login to leave a comment