As Nick wrote earlier, a group of folks from ITP Camp at NYU took a trip down to Fresh Kills (the former landfill turned park) on Staten Island in June to get started with some aerial mapping. I was lucky to be a part of this group, and the whole experience was truly a highlight of ITP Camp for me. I spend most of my time teaching (and thinking about teaching) design, cartography and other things at the NYC iSchool, a public high school downtown, and I was especially interested in thinking about how to bring aerial mapping back to my classroom.
We spent most of the morning getting out to the site, learning a bit about the location (past/present/future), and getting our kite set up - only to have the wind die down. We were only mildly disappointed, though, because I think we all wanted to play with the 5-ft red balloon. We spent quite a while leading the balloon (or allowing the balloon to lead us, I'm not sure) through what used to be the largest landfill in the world, and were excited to see the photos at the end of the day.
Questions and next steps
1) We don't often have the experience of taking photos and being surprised by what they look like. Unlike with film cameras, these digital things are always ready to tell us if a photo we took looks terrible. And that's one thing that made this whole experience unusual: We had no idea if the camera was working, or if the shots it took would be useful in any way. The anticipation of uploading those photos was incredible, and we all hovered around Nick's laptop at the end of the day to see what the balloon had seeing while we were on the ground. This made me realize that the experience of mapping was different from the purpose of mapping, and that the experience was pretty awesome all by itself.
2) The purpose of mapping: As a cartography teacher, I'm especially interested in thinking about what my class has to offer my high school students. I mean, are compass-reading and orienteering useful skills for 16-year-old kids who live in a city? I'd say yes (for the way that they allow us to connect with the land), but I'm also now thinking that aerial mapping actually offers a true application for "modern" cartographers - rather than a justification that I've imagined for myself. After learning more about the examples discussed on this site (eg, the gulf oil spill), I'm trying to think of new applications for my kids to experiment with in the fall. I'm really interested in connecting with other folks who are doing this, especially with young people, and look forward to thinking more about what this looks like in (or just outside of) the city.