The website for CrisisMappersUK, a group of people who are involved in building maps to track events in the UK, is to relaunch its website by the beginning of September, in a move which it hopes will drive further connections between those involved in such projects.
The relaunch will offer enhanced community engagement on the site, with a new forum and space dedicated to highlighting existing projects, as well as any specific areas within projects where help is needed.
CrisisMappersUK was established in 2012 by Justine Mackinnon and Francesca De Florio, and is part of the International Network of Crisis Mappers. The network describes itself as a "community of experts, practitioners, policy makers, technologists, researchers, journalists, scholars, hackers and skilled volunteers engaged at the intersection between humanitarian crises, technology, crowdsourcing, and crisis mapping".
The UK contingent has mapped events such as the Olympics and the Isle of Wight festival, to help track information and keep the public informed about what is happening around them. As with these two cases, maps do not necessarily relate to a 'crisis', but can instead work to monitor large-scale events and provide useful information on areas such as traffic issues, or places to get help if necessary.
Maps are created using technology such as mapping tool Ushahidi and texting service Frontline SMS, as well as platforms like Skype, Google Plus and "micro-tasking technology" which is used to filter content being sent in by the crowd.
With the Olympics map, shown above, members of the public could add to it by sending updates via a number of means, including a text message to a given number, via email or using any one of 30 hashtags. It also provided a page on its website where updates could be sent from.
Users viewing the map online could use the 'category filter' to change the sort of reports they were viewing, from road closures and news on public transport, to stolen property reports, medical updates and help requests.
When it comes to measuring the success of a map, this might just be the fact that one person found it useful, co-founder Justine Mackinnon told Journalism.co.uk. "On bigger deployments we've saved lives," she said.
Mackinnon, who is also a community leader for Ushahidi, and runs JusComms consultancy, told Journalism.co.uk that the media have a vital role to play in helping raise awareness of such resources. As well as helping to promote projects, they can of course use the same technology to create maps themselves during breaking news events, which can be moderated by the newsroom. Maps can also prove to be a useful source of stories for journalists, highlighting where key events are taking place.
CrisisMappersUK was originally based at Crisismappersuk.com, but plans to relaunch at Crisismappers.co.uk.
Justine Mackinnon will be speaking at our digital journalism conference news:rewired about how to use digital technologies to map a crisis or breaking news event. The conference takes place on Friday 20 September at MSN UK, London.
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