Challenge, indeed. As an artist-curator-historian, I'm not exactly Silicon Valley savvy.
But I do know what I like in a map: Layers. Think about this with me.
Imagine a Google map that allows one to select a historical view of the topography, New Orleans before or after the storm. Imagine being able to integrate past and present. Being able to view current data on the recovery on old Sanborn maps. And historic data from archives on contemporary maps. And being able to turn on and off different sets of data simultaneously. In this way, one could see if a historic house is on a demolition list. Imagine that. Making information more accessible, meaningful and interesting.
Mapping gives life to spreadsheets (demolition lists or building permits). Suddenly these droning lists of addresses form patterns and relationships. We can now go to a house, photograph it, blog it and sometimes actually save it. Usually not. But in the very least, it has been documented before it's history. The current push for demolition before the FEMA money runs out weighs heavy on the collective soul of New Orleans.
As we plan for the future, we ought to revisit the past. I'm thinking about Storyville and the Iberville Housing Projects. The "Big Four" are almost gone. What will rise up in their place? Can we see their old street grids amidst the live oaks? I'm thinking about having a better understanding of the history of all our neighborhoods, not just the 19th century ones.
The 20th century city of New Orleans suffered the most from the flooding. It had nothing to do with race or income. It's geography. Mapping is destiny and people all over the city are trying to map the madness away. Citizen created content in Google Maps track housing demolitions, housing project locations, shootings in 2008, mid-century modern architecture, unopened schools, schools to be demolished, the Housing Conservation District Review Committee (HCDRC) agenda, and of course New Orleans music.
I'm obviously keen on the idea of integrating geo-tagged photos as well. So this Mashup could potentially link recovery data, archival data and geo-tagged photos into a central space with layers of historic and contemporary maps of the city. The humble hope: to assist the recovery of New Orleans by increasing awareness of what we have, what is lost and for what we will fight to the end to preserve.