Sunday, May 25, 2008

The map that launched a thousand ships


Green Space Map, originally uploaded by Karen Apricot New Orleans.

I can’t believe I kind of forgot about the green dot map. Karen Gadbois emailed it to me Saturday morning and suggested we look into it to help tell our story at netSquared.

The "green dot plan" was generated by the Urban Land Institute for the Mayor’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission. It was released in January 2006.* The six big green dots: “approximate areas expected to become green space.”

This is the plan that launched a thousand ships, an armada of civic pride and activism. It was a plan that united us to fight against it. I started thinking about how this map could tell the stories of the People under those dots. How could it tell a story of the Buildings? The Neighborhoods? The Cornerstones? We can use this map against itself to tell the story of our defense of New Orleans. In this mashup, we can integrate citizen-created content into those green dots. Of course, we would also need to tell the story of the creation of that map. The story of Czar Canizaro and the Urban Land Institute. And we would need to actually layer this plan over a real map and discover the actual boundaries of those seemingly arbitrary dots.

It’s interesting on another level as well. Up to now, we have been thinking of the stories that get told by the data. This reverses the process as it starts with a historic map from the recent past. Through our mashup, the map becomes a virtual archive of its own significance. a meta-map. very cool.


* Note: The green dot map is missing from the Times-Picayune graphics archive online. The archive has no graphics from January 2006. Original plan: 2005. November 29. Urban Land Institute's Rebuilding Plan.

The links below are only abstracts. The Times-Picayune makes one subscribe online to read the full articles. There are many more listings on the Urban Land Institute's plan in the paid archive. I only posted a few abstracts here.

2006. January 11.
4 MONTHS TO DECIDE ; Nagin panel says hardest hit areas must prove viability city's footprint may shrink; full buyouts proposed for those forced to move. New housing to be developed in vast swaths of New Orleans' higher groundNagin panel would restrict rebuildingNeighborhoods would have 4 months to prove viability. by Frank Donze and Gordon

2006. March 19.
Land use debate recalls St. Thomas controversy ; Canizaro had role in creating River Garden by Brian Thevenot.

2007. April 1.
Will plan lift the Curse of the Green Dot? by Stephanie Grace

Friday, May 23, 2008

topophilia :::::::::::::::: a love of place

video
The New Orleans mashup for Citizen Monitoring of the Recovery is really gaining momentum. Yesterday as it bucketed with rain, Alan Gutierrez and I had long and productive phone conversations with three of our partners: Denice Warren Ross of the GNOCDC, Andrew Turner of Mapufacture and Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage. In the in-between-time, Alan met with the Neighborhood Coworking Project and I created a slideshow of a few of my favorite maps of New Orleans.

But back to the conversations:

New Orleans is a ripe or fertile environment for mapping. - Denice Warren Ross

No one knows this better than GNOCDC. In 1997 the Greater New Orleans Data Center was founded to democratize information from administrative data sets. The GNOCDC is offering us a wealth of wisdom gained through their years of experience. How to actually use this medium to create a map with context: one that tells a story. How to design a product for a specific audience with a specific purpose and then test it in the field.
The GNOCDC methodology includes field usability testing for mapping systems. While they will not be supplying us with data, they are offering us the use of some of their seminal maps, especially the Neighborhood Boundaries Map and the Planning Districts Map. Their support of this project provides us with a strong foundation. Thank you, Denise.

Mapufacture provides dynamic, customizable geographic information and collaborative mapping. - Andrew Turner

Andrew is the project engineer on our team. Two days ago, I posted in the GIS Forum a recipe for a demo map for us to help us tell the story of the plight of the public schools in New Orleans. And just 3 hours later, Andrew had presented us with a preliminary mashup of various data set with the School Facilties Master Plan building reports. This is a work in progress. The ultimate product should incorporate photos from Flickr on a historic basemap. I can't say thanks enough, Andrew.

Dead House Walking - Karen Gadbois

Karen and I talked at length last night about her story. She began Squandered Heritage in April of 2006 after returning home. Her neighborhood lost a significant block of houses to fire. Pritchard Place at South Carrollton. Can we all put our heads together and conjure up that memory? I know I've tried. Karen tried. She went searching for photos and could turn up no visual archive.
So Squandered Heritage began as a Memory Project. Which is a lot. But it's become much more. It started as place to visually document the memory of buildings. And as the stories of the buildings got told, it became more focussed on the various plights of the people who have lost so much. We are all indebted to Karen for continuing to fight, for continuing to keep us informed. For her diligence and dedication to the defense of New Orleans culture, our varied architectural heritage and the preservation of our neighborhood communities.

We all saw those 24 pages of addresses of houses to be demolished that was published in the Times-Picayune in the summer of 2007. I sat and stared at that paper. Gutted. I've spent years developing a New Orleans Virtual Archive (coming soon... coming soon). But my collection is based heavily in the 19th century city, the sliver by the river, the aisle of denial. We got that documented. But what about the other 80% that sat under water? What I could I do? How does one begin to tackle that scale of a documentation project? The scope of loss was Unfathomable. But while I sat frozen at the kitchen table, Karen started working. She is an absolute inspiration to me. Her success gave me the confidence to attempt to document modernism in New Orleans. Muchas muchas gracias.

Now for a shout out for that Times-Picayune insert. If anyone has it, please please please let me borrow it and scan it. I would really like to take it to netSquared. It's a perfect artifact to help tell our story.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Manifesto for a Mashup

At the end of the month Alan Gutierrez of Think New Orleans, Andrew Turner of Mapufacture and I will pitch a Mashup for Citizen Monitoring of the Recovery in the 2008 NetSquared Mashup challenge.

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.