Public Lab Research note

Summary of a research area review on mapping for organizing and advocacy

by bhamster , liz | July 21, 2021 23:00 21 Jul 23:00 | #27255 | #27255

We've wrapped up our latest collaborative research area review on mapping for community organizing and advocacy!

This collaborative topic review started off in mid-May with a kick-off call (notes here). Joining the call were Public Lab community members in the early stages of investigating local concerns ranging from neighborhood air quality to pollinator diversity. We talked about project updates, questions and challenges, and how to participate in the research area review. This call and the lively Open Calls that followed each week helped to shape the focus of the research area review going forward. As questions came out of each conversation, we posted questions and shared answers.

Thank you to everyone who shared knowledge, resources, time, and stories about mapping and advocacy during the review! 🎉

@LESBreathe, @sarasage, @seankmcginnis, @SaraSWFL, @RosaL, @lilymccraith, @jjcreedon, @imvec, @warren, @molangmuir10, @Greenhorns, @Ag8n, @julia_e_masters, @amocorro, @cfastie

End-of-review events

In late June and early July we held several public events on mapping, organizing, and advocacy.

🗺️ Organize and advocate with maps! Wrapping up Public Lab's latest research area review

On this call, we featured the new activities and resources we created on mapping for organizing and advocacy. Julia, the Research Curation Fellow for Organizing and Advocacy, then created space for people on the call to continue dialogue on the topic. You'll find a recording of the event and all the links shared during the call here.

🎈📷 Live build of a camera mount for balloon mapping

Alahna showed us step-by-step how to make a nifty device for attaching a camera to a balloon for aerial photography. We also learned about the history of balloon mapping kits at Public Lab and Alahna's balloon mapping tips and tricks. Check out a recording of the live build and links sharing during the call here!

🗣️ Mapping for organizing: Guest speaker panel

We took the theme of "Mapping FOR Organizing" as an invitation to explore how participatory spatial notation---which includes a wide range of processes from community walking tours to aerial imaging to digital mapping---enables a community to combine their traditional and local knowledge as well as empirical observations of the world in order to build social bonds, develop shared problem definitions as well as shared vision → which translates to political power. This session brought together people from incredible, expansive projects that could have each presented in a dedicated event, so we chose to switch up the usual presentation format and instead do rounds of answering a series of prompts enabling us to see across projects:

  • A surprising anecdote to bring the listener right into the essence of your work
  • Your heartfelt motivation why you are called to this work, why it is strategic
  • An insight into your tactics for technical mapping success
  • An insight into your tactics for organizing for advocacy
  • What of your many lessons learned do you feel the fewest other people know?

Guest presenters included:

  • Xose Quiroga of The Institute for Grassroots Monitoring of Contaminated Areas is a non-profit organization dedicated to the training and accompaniment of communities affected by contamination processes in their environmental investigations. Since 2015, the Institute also develops open and free environmental investigation methods and tools in an effort to bring forensic investigation techniques and tools closer to the affected communities. Through the portal, IMVEC publishes the tools and methods, employing an ultra-lightweight web portal to facilitate access in areas with little or no internet coverage. Through a hidden portal in the Tor network, IMVEC makes available to the collectives that need it, a hidden digital work platform to protect the privacy and anonymity of the users, usually targeted by threats from environmental aggressors. The platform is accessible using the Tor Browser at the following link: http://o5ss65db4oowvkobyebvttphtlglc464icnwdjfziylfl55au2iyizid.onion/#english
  • Jeffrey Yoo Warren (he/him) is a Korean-american artist, community scientist, illustrator, and researcher in Providence, RI, who collaboratively creates community science projects which decenter dominant culture in environmental knowledge production. He hosts participatory projects, runs workshops and gives talks on cultural making, collaborative practice, and community science. Jeff is a member of AS220 in Providence and served three terms on the Open Source Hardware Association board since 2014. In 2010, he co-founded Public Lab, a community science network and non-profit dedicated to democratizing science to address environmental issues that affect people. After 10 years as Director of Research, he stepped down at the start of 2020 but remains involved as a project administrator and mentor of programs which support diversity, equity, and inclusion in technology. Relevant Links:,,
  • Gabriel Jaime Vanegas Montoya is a historian in training and Librarian with more than 20 years of experience. He is currently working on training processes in Library Experiences and Services at the Medellín Pilot Public Library. There he develops social appropriation strategies around Genealogies and Family History. He was coordinator of the San Javier-La Loma Library between 2003 and 2015. Subsidiary that belongs to the Pilot Public Library of Medellín. Coordinator of the Community of Practice ConVerGentes . Former Educational Director of the HiperBarrio Corporation in Colombia between 2009 and 2012. He is a Lecturer and Researcher on digital literacy processes, especially on the relationships between cyberculture, Libraries and History. He advances processes of practical application of collaborative knowledge of geography and cartography in libraries and in the social and human sciences, especially in the formation, exercise and projection of the historian. Enlaces relevantes:,
  • Sean McGinnis of ESRI, and a Public Lab Community Organizer
  • Emma Lockridge - Working as an Environmental Justice Organizer for Michigan United, Emma Lockridge led a successful campaign to secure a home buyout program from an oil refinery that is based in her Detroit community. She has lived most of her life in Detroit 48217, home to an oil refinery and major polluting industries. She and her neighbors say their community has surpassed the mark of being a livable place due to the extreme level of smoke stack toxins that blanket the area. Four hundred homes are covered in the buyout plan. Relevant Links:, Marathon buyout
  • Mo Langmuir of
  • Muki Haklay got involved in participatory mapping over 25 years ago, while exploring how people can use and create environmental information. He is a professor of Geographic Information Science at UCL, where he co-direct the Extreme Citizen Science group and co-founded Mapping for Change in 2008. Relevant Links:
  • Jen Castro is part of Digital Democracy's Programs Team, focusing on applied technologies and adaptive training methodologies to empower users to integrate digital technology into organized community activities that center on environmental, territorial, and human rights. She is part of the Kichwa-Mestiza diaspora, based in Tio'tia:ke (Montreal, Canada) with active relationships with communities and projects in British Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. Relevant Links:,,

Guest facilitator for the Spanish language panel:

  • Anna Cigarini is a researcher interested in participatory research methods currently focusing on the commons-like formation that characterize citizen science. She has years of experience in community management of citizen science projects. She is part of OpenSystems (University of Barcelona) and collaborator at Dimmons (Open University of Catalunya). Relevant Links: , .

We recorded this session to create a resource for "people who are trying to get started on place-based research for advocacy."

Spanish language panel:

English language panel:

Our next quarterly research area review is on water quality! Stay tuned for more details and follow the research-area-review tag if you want to receive updates. And please comment below if you have any questions, ideas, or feedback!


@bhamster has marked @liz as a co-author.

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