Print Project Proposal: Can Everyone Be A Cartographer?

In undergrad, my first internship was at the Norman Leventhal Map Center, a small education, research, and exhibition space located in the Boston Public Library. My main job was to sit in the back office and georeference Bromley Urban Atlases for eventual digital use. I learned many useful things while there, including a burgeoning love for maps. While I worked at the Map Center, they were developing a new website to make access to their digital collections easier. One component of this was the crowdsourcing of my job – georeferencing. While I focused solely on urban atlases, today visitors to the Map Center’s website can work to georeference any map they’re interested in.

This leads me to my paper project proposal questions. There are now online a variety of digital map resources that encourage individuals to georeference maps they are interested in, and in doing so add to the collections of the host organization. The Norman Leventhal Map Center, New York Public Library, and the David Rumsey Map Collection all encourage their visitors to get their hands dirty, so to speak, and work with the maps on their own digital terms. For this paper I would like to investigate how these three websites work to develop the “crowd” into users, and how successful these techniques are, reflecting research on crowdsourcing already done by individuals such as Brabham and Causer & Wallace.

Not only will this project add to our understanding of crowdsourcing, it has potentially real-life applications: while libraries like the DCPL have extensive digitized collections, there is currently no way for visitors to interact with them. Developing an understanding of the ins and outs of crowd-sourcing for georeferencing may aid these libraries in developing their own platform and increasing interaction between patrons and the library.

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