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Map for your life!

Maps and computers are a powerful combination. Where maps were once static prints of conditions at just one moment, contemporary digital maps can change constantly, representing dynamic real-life geographies. Online mapping today uses many innovative techniques and data sources to not only document what exists, but make a difference in the world as well.

In creating Forage Berkeley, we've looked at many fascinating maps for inspiration, and in this blog post we'll be sharing some of our favorites.

A snapshot from (via The Polis Blog)

One fascinating map application is, which uses GPS data from San Francisco taxis to generate a real-time map of the city. Simply mapping the routes taken by taxis reveals not only roads, bodies of water, and bridges but also reveals areas of high intensity use and traffic patterns over time.

While takes advantage of GPS data to create a dynamic, constantly changing map, other online maps take advantage of user-generated-content to update their displays. This so-called "crowdsourcing" of cartography makes maps not only dynamic, but also makes them frameworks for the organizing of information, like Wikipedia or Yelp!.

A great example of a user-generated map is the the Oakmapper, the Berkeley College of Natural Resource's sudden oak death mapping project. On this website, users can report trees with symptoms of the contagious tree disease, see the locations of confirmed infected trees, and learn about Phytophthora ramorum, the pathogen that causes the illness. By sharing information about trees with sudden oak death, the Oakmapper system helps experts fight the scourge.

Perhaps the most important online maps today are those that are helping to save lives. Ushahidi, for example, is an open source mapping framework used to crowdsource crisis information and direct aid. Originally developed to map election violence in Kenya in 2008, the platform has since been redeployed in different political crises and, most recently, in response to the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.

Information can be added to Ushahidi's maps by a variety of methods, including text messages and e-mail. The flexible data input mechanism allows the mapping system to work even in areas with low resources, and the information revealed in aggregate can help governments and aid groups target their relief efforts effectively.

The internet is filled with innovative and amazing maps. While some save lives and others make us smile, online maps represent a major change from static maps and offer new ways for people to see their world.

Urban Cursor Map: Catalunya, Spain, September 2009

At Forage Berkeley we're hoping to join the many other mappers exploring new directions in online mapping. By sharing information about local foods on our online map, you can participate in an exciting new movement... And find something to eat!


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