Thank you Ben Abelshausen for nominating me as a HOT voting member, and to Jorieke Vyncke and Harry Wood for additional support!
I have been aware of humanitarian mapping activities on OSM early on, but first really got to know HOT as an organisation through Kate Chapman’s recorded talks. In 2013 I attended State of the Map in Birmingham where I met Ben and Jorieke, and learned about the growing range of development and aid activities that had grown out of the wider OSM network. In Summer 2014, a group of people started the first regular HOT mapathons in London (they would later co-found Missing Maps). I became an early participant, and my involvement grew from there.
I initially became active in HOT as a PhD student researching community organisations, and after some months of exploration decided to make HOT the centre of my work. Over the last 2-3 years I’ve gradually expanded my involvement. At some point during this time I also joined a growing volunteer team around Ivan Gayton, Pete Masters and Andrew Braye to help run their mapathons and other HOT-related activities.
My first tangible contribution is maybe the talk I gave at the first HOT Summit in 2015 (slides). I showed empirical evidence of some HOT community activities and outcomes, and discussed the implications. The talk resonated well, and sparked great debate during the session. Based on the feedback I got I think this helped people gain a different understanding of their work, and their priorities. (Unfortunately the video was never published, maybe we can get it online sometime.)
After the talk, Alyssa Wright approached me and suggested I should make my findings accessible to the wider community. This motivated me to start a research diary, where I now share findings from my various explorations of HOT activities. The first post discusses my motivation: to help develop a broader understanding of HOT through analytics and visualisations, contextualising the data, providing evidence to substantiate design choices, and offering conceptual models which help reason about HOT as a social phenomenon.
My research has progressed a lot since these early days, but most of the time it is still driven by a desire to use my research skills to support HOT as an organisation, and to inform and strengthen HOT practice. In addition, I’ve also been regularly approached by other community members with ideas about aspects to look at; have a look at some of my past diary posts for examples of this.
My guest blog post for State of the Map 2013 ends with an observation that still motivates me today: HOT to me reflects a turning point in community technologies. It takes OSM as a starting point, but expands on it by connecting to a large universe of social concerns. In my opinion, a key contribution that HOT is making to the world is that it places community at the centre of its activities, and that it embraces and balances a multiplicity of perspectives. But also that it finds a delicate balance between a kind of volunteerism that is driven by enjoyment and personal enthusiasm, and an honest professionalism that connects to funding sources and places where “serious people” live. In that, HOT represents a rare synthesis of the lessons of open source culture and the aid and volunteering sector, hopefully managing to keep the best parts of each.
I have experienced HOT from the “outside” for a few years now, and have become more and more personally invested in its future. I would like to formalise this relationship, and help take on the burden of making sure that it remains a healthy organisation for a long time to come.
I think one of the most important contributions any member can make is their approach to internal discourse. I see it as my responsibility to promote things that I think are important, to alert the community of risks, but most importantly to do so in a manner that is constructive, never divisive, and to help moderate internal debates when emotion takes over.
I will keep up my enthusiasm for finding new HOT corners to explore, helping foster community engagement, seeking to help tackle community coordination challenges, and supporting daily practice in a range of ways. In addition, I look forward to participate in the governance of HOT. I have spent the last decade with a wide range of community organisations, and have had much exposure to the governance challenges they may bring, and some potential means of addressing them. I plan to bring this experience into my involvement with HOT, but also to come with an open mind, and to take time to listen.
HOT is attempting to foster a new kind of practice while the word is shifting around us. As a consequence, there is a long list of challenges. On top of that there are the challenges of a maturing organisation: managing funds, emergent factions, maintaining the tech. Others will have thought about these aspects quite deeply already. A personal concern for me is HOT’s relationship to community growth, and community cohesion. Internally, and in its relationship to other organisations, and the wider OSM ecosystem. How large do we want to grow this? Do we have the means to deal with the consequences? I think there are many open questions related to this; but also a growing body of knowledge that we can draw from.
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