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Open Mapping Community

17. September 2012

In my previous post I used the term ‘open mapping community’ without explicitly defining it. This is what I’m trying to do now.


The modern trends of the internet, which led to the term ‘Web 2.0’ and the definition of internet users changed from the passive ‘consumer’ to an active ‘prosumer’. But that also has a deep impact on cartography whereby the traditional and well defined disciplines thematic and topographic cartography got a new branch called ‘neocartography’, which expresses in form of ‘maps 2.0’.

Basically I am not a fan of such cryptic, crucially defined new terms but I used them as they really express very good, that many changes and new trends evolve. In my opinion, primarily the availability of free, volunteered geographical information (VGI) from the community driven project OpenStreetMap forced new trends in cartography which resolved in the term ‘neocartography’. Especially since there is now already an ICA Commission on Neocartography I consider this term as steady. It is by now still not well defined, what I would strongly recommend that commission to do, but everybody has now an anchor point when the term is used.

Attempt for a definition

And this is the starting point of the definition of an ‘open mapping community’. During the last years an uncountable number of projects and initiatives newly formed, which are all somehow related to making free available maps. Basically I recognize everybody who working on something that is related to making maps in the whole range of ‘neocartography’ as part of such a world wide community. But as this is a much too vague definition lets try to find the basic categories of actions that are related to that:

  1. collecting VGI –> mapping parties, private initiatives, gps rental,…
  2. local administration and editing of VGI –> independent initiatives that develop open source software for editing spatial data (josm, potlatch, merkaator), GIS (OpenJump, GRASS, QuantumGIS), databases (PostgreSQL, SQLite, MySQL), conversion tools (imposm, osm2pgsql, …)
  3. administrate VGI and user activities –> central foundations like OSMF, groups of regular meetings, tools with helpful informations (openstreetbugs, osminspector, heatmap, …)
  4. publishing VGI –> independent initiatives and companies that make data available (e.g. OverpassAPI, Geofabrik, …)
  5. making maps –> independent initiatives and companies that develop open source software for computing maps (e.g. mapnik, osmarender, tilemill, walking papers, field papers, maposmatic,…)
  6. serving web maps –> initiatives that make special thematic or topographic maps and offer them free of charge (e.g. opencyclemap, openpistemap,……………), also companies (e.g. stamen design, development seed,…) and scientific efforts (e.g. OSM WMS)
  7. visualizing web maps –> contains the development of software for visualizing the free available web maps (e.g. open layers)

This is a first attempt…as I have to work more on it, it has no claim on being complete…but I’m grateful for hints!

From → neocartography

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