StudioX Mapping Party

Posted by mikelmaron on 7 March 2013 in English (English)

Last month, we held a great mapping party in Mumbai. I was in town for TechCampMumbai, and had introduced OpenStreetMap and discussed how to use open source tools with dozens of South Asian civil society organizations. Overwhelming and inspiring, lots of grassroots potential, worthy of several more posts. However, we didn't get to do much mapping (except for adding the outline of our very nice hotel), so I was eager to get out in the city.

map of new data from the party

Good friends from ChaloBest and the OSM India community pitched in to bring something together at the very nice space of StudioX, and invite interesting civic minded folks like Walking Project to come out to learn the tech and community. I had also extended the invitation to all the TechCamp attendees, and the Bangladesh contingent came through on their tourist tour of south Mumbai (most everyone else had immediately left after the camp concluded the night before).

We started off with a my 5 minute lightning talk from TechCamp Mumbai, and Shekhar gave a tour of the latest from ChaloBest, before doing a super quick surveying tutorial, distribution of GPS units, and down to the street. We decided to focus on the immediate area of Dr Dadabhai Naoroji Road, and split into thematic groups. One group focused on the major buildings, another on transport/bus stops, another on heritage.

Myself and Rishi from the Walking Project mapped the very very local level, the literally dozens of street vendors within the few blocks we covered. We also discussed pedestrian access issues, and how mapping could help in advocacy and planning, and Rishi took dozens of photos like the one above documenting the condition of the street.

Street vendors take a few forms, like relatively substantial wheeled stands and miscellaneous accessories, like padapav vendors who have a flat surface for holding the assembled ingredients, and a separate oil cooking apparatus. (Padapav is the typical Mumbai street snack, basically a potato burger on a Portuguese style bun, with accompanying sauces and chutney. Delicious and cheap, responsible for the daily sustenance for millions). Others simply arrange their wares using the available street scape, like the vendor of interior design magazines who shelved them behind string tied tight to a fence.

You might think that street vendors are too ephemeral to map in OSM. Turns out, despite their movable physicality, they entirely dependably end up in the same spots every day, by some kind of common agreement and logic of the streets. They serve such a vital purpose, an integral part of the street life that makes many parts of India so enjoyable (at least to someone like me who usually walks the relatively vacant streets of American cities).

Of course, there's the tagging. Nothing in the Mapping Features page quite covers this case. There are things like shop=stationary, but that doesn't quite capture the reality of a street vendor. For now, I decided to consistently apply "shop=street_vendor", and add "shop:type" to describe in more detail what they are selling. (Note, we mapped a few shop=kiosk, which are distinguished by having a permanent structure). This could use more discussion and deliberation on the tagging@ mailing list, and in the proposed features section of the wiki.

Here's all the shop:type we encountered.

  • 'betel_paan' (yum?)
  • 'books'
  • 'cane_juice'
  • 'chana_bhel' (street snacks)
  • 'cigarette, public telephone'
  • 'cobbler'
  • 'fruit_chat,sweet_lime'
  • 'interior_design_magazine'
  • 'juice'
  • 'newstand'
  • 'sandwich'
  • 'stationary'
  • 'vadapav'
  • 'wallet'

Fort is the center of colonial Mumbai, so hosts a number of historic buildings, and though the walls of the Fort itself are mostly gone, the layout of the area still echoes its footprint. If only we had OpenHistoricalMap! There was this very solid map right on the street, and historic buildings plaqued at their entrances. Rishi was thoroughly stopped by an overeager security guard from taking a photograph of only the plaque, authoritatively leaning on the vague warnings against photographing secure areas throughout India. This was all with the backdrop of bombings the day before in Hyderabad. We at least avoided unwanted attention by not taking GPS points around CST/VT.

As is the usual practice, we headed to a pub after the mapping party. Shekhar painted the picture of Mumbai's past as we walked, the bustling market zone, still housing many of the main paper suppliers for the city, where we would have printed out our mapping party map had we finished everything in time. Cafe Universal is an old style Parsi cafe, and things just got fun and cloudy there. We finished the night at a still unmapped small fish restaurant across the street which fed four of us deliciously for 600 rupees!

Spent the night above the Worli seaside, gazing on may soon be the expanded sea link encircling the island city, blocking incredible exclusive views, but also perhaps further degrading the seaside environment, and not investing in pedestrian and mass transit Mumbai. Arun Ganesh and spent the morning walking to Haji Ali Dargah, chatting on how both the rich and poor of Mumbai maintain their spaces, how mapping might take hold in Dharavi, India's unmapped conservation areas, the transformative power of maps right in public spaces. Haji Ali was the site of intense holy frivolity, these young boys floating mini-mosques to crash on the rocks, old men describing with certain "rocket ships" washed up on the rocks, Bollywood-built young dudes posing in the crashing waves. A stimulating environment, that drove us back to Sanjay's to hack.

In a quick sprint, we got thing running on Topomancy's server, so OSM India now has it's own India Tile Server. The plan is to have stylesheets managed on github, with a script to manage pulling updates, configuration and restarts on the server. This all didn't quite work until this morning, after Jeff Meyer install mapnik2 and update everything. And that also means that OpenHistoricalMap is nearly ready to go, since it's installed and running on the same server.

And then the trip was over. Can't wait for more.

Location: Bori Bunder, A Ward, Zone 1, Mumbai, Mumbai City, Maharashtra, 400003, India

Login to leave a comment