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.

One Reply to “Print Project Proposal: Can Everyone Be A Cartographer?”

  1. Exploring how the various map warping projects are and aren’t working is a great idea. There are a lot of ways you could approach this too. I think it would make sense for you to try all of them yourself and record your own observations about the experiences and then delve into the information the sites each provide about how their systems work and document information about the extent to which user engagement with the tools is visible.

    Along with that you could reach out to the site creators for each and ask them to share their perspectives on what they think works best about their respective tools and their perspectives on each other’s work. Lastly, it could be neat to then try doing some usertesting for the respective sites. That is, take a small number of people and ask them to try to do some of the core tasks the sites support and then observe how they do with those tasks and identify what is and isn’t working about the sites for them.

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