Public Lab History
The Grassroots Mapping community was founded in 2009 by Jeffrey Warren, then a graduate student at MIT?s Center for Future Civic Media. The project began in Lima, Peru where Jeff worked with communities and activists to produce maps to support land tenure claims. In May 2010, members of the already growing Grassroots Mapping community joined with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade to begin environmental monitoring of the BP Oil Spill with the balloon mapping kit. In collaboration with Shannon Dosemagen, the Gulf Coast branch of the project grew to over a hundred volunteers and activists who have produced dozens of data sets since the spill. Stewart Long produced the stitched maps of the Gulf and Adam Griffith, working for Western Carolina University, led mapping trips while visiting the Gulf.
As activists and educators from around the world began joining the Grassroots Mapping community, seven co-founders (Liz Barry, Shannon Dosemagen, Adam Griffith, Mathew Lippincott, Stewart Long, Jeff Warren and Sara Wylie) decided to formalize Grassroots Mapping in Fall 2010 as part of a broader organization, Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (Public Lab). This has resulted in a new generation of tools which we are now testing at sites across the US and beyond. Our online tools for analysis, open-source research documentation, and collaboration, as well as our strong emphasis on face-to-face workshops has helped us to work with a variety of new communities, in West Virginia, Boston, New York, and Peru.
Other staff members have launched projects and initiatives in new sites; Portland-based Mathew Lippincott organized workshops to assemble balloon kits and ship them to Gulf Coast volunteers, and Liz Barry collaborated with Brooklyn-based activists to begin a monitoring of the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup. Sara Wylie, whose work developing web-tools for collective monitoring of gas and oil extraction was a natural match for Public Lab.
In June 2011, Public Lab received a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Knight News Challenge grant that will cover much of the work of Public Lab over the next two years. Our growing community now includes site work being done in locations such as Butte, MT; Santiago, Chile; Jerusalem, Israel; and Rifle, CO. In October 2011, the National Affordable Housing Network in Butte, MT partnered with Public Lab to bring on the most recent addition to the Public Lab staff, Olivia Everett.
The team expanded to include key organizers Pat Coyle, R.J. Steinert, Jen Hudon, Leif Percifield, and Manpriya Samra. This group has grown to dozens of organizers and is now known as the Public Lab organizers list
February 13, 2012