Google Map Maker, Google’s tool to allow users to edit its maps, has been shut down, Ars Technica reports. “A support page went up over the weekend declaring that Map Maker is closed but that ‘many of its features are being integrated into Google Maps.’” You may recall that Map Maker was temporarily suspended in 2015 after a series of embarrassing edits came to light; its editing tools have been increasingly limited to a smaller circle of editors.
In response to measures like North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which restricts access to public washrooms by transgender people, crowdsourced online maps of safe washrooms—places with unisex or gender-neutral washrooms, or that let transgender people use the washroom that matches their gender identity—have been created: Refuge Restrooms has both a list and a map view; Safe Bathrooms uses Google My Maps. These maps seem like the modern-day equivalent of The Negro Motorist Green Book for trans people. [WMS]
Quartz takes a look at the Missing Maps project, which I suppose can best be described as a way to jumpstart mapping the unmapped developing regions of the world with OpenStreetMap. What’s interesting about Missing Maps is how it systematically deals out tasks to people best able to do them: remote volunteers trace imagery, community volunteers do the tagging and labelling. There’s even an app, MapSwipe, that gives its users “the ability to swipe through satellite images and indicate if they contain features like houses, roads or paths. These are then forwarded onto Missing Maps for precise marking of these features.” [WMS]
In Smithsonian, Erin Blakemore explores the on-the-ground, amateur efforts to get disadvantaged communities—slums, shanty towns, whatever they may be called—on the map, like the Map Kibera and Mapillary projects, and the implications of such projects.
Sterling Quinn, who is earning his Ph.D. in geography at Penn State, notes that there are downsides to user-generated maps. Just because an underserved community makes its way onto the map doesn’t mean it becomes less vulnerable, says Sterling. “Putting yourself on the map may make you more vulnerable to people who want to exploit the area,” he tells Smithsonian.com.
Point Google Maps or OpenStreetMap at a city like Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and you’ll get a reasonably good map. What you won’t get is Street View or street-level imagery—or, necessarily, the data that comes from a street-level understanding of the territory. NPR’s Nadia Whitehead looks at a joint project of the World Bank and Mapillary, a company that crowdsources street-level photos, to produce those images. “Volunteers are mounting camera rigs to their tuk tuks—three-wheeled motor-powered vehicles—to snap pictures as they cruise Dar es Salaam’s dirt roads. Others download the Mapillary app on their smartphones and capture images as they walk or hitch rides on motorbikes. In all, more than 260 people have volunteered.” [via]
Researchers are mapping the shift in Swiss German dialect usage via an iOS app. The app asks users to take a 16-question survey based on maps from a language atlas that mapped Swiss German usage circa 1950. The app predicts the user’s actual home dialect location based on those maps; differences between that prediction and the user’s actual home dialect location reveal how Swiss German has changed over time. They ended up getting responses from 60,000 speakers. PLOS ONE article. [via]