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Use Technology to Map Your Community

What is it? Mapping your community can illuminate gaps, features or connections that may not be otherwise visible. As technology has developed, particularly GIS software, digital interactive maps can now be much more informative and include information not normally found on printed materials.  Internet-based representations are able to be more interactive and available to a much larger audience.  Technology has been particularly helpful in allowing the layering of many kinds of data on top of one another.  For example, one map of your community can now include all the cultural resources, poverty levels, school absenteeism and countless other data points together.  Data layering helps identify connections between and concentrations of seemingly disparate items.  The visual element makes the data clearer to understand, and accessible to non-expert audiences.  Such mapping helps strengthen local residents’ understandings of their community and suggests opportunities for change.

How has it been used? Philadelphia officials created the CultureBlocks program, which has created an online map of the city available to anyone who wants to better understand the area.  The map is specifically focused on creativity and culture.  It helps draw connections between neighborhoods and their heritage and cultural assets.  Officials hope that the tool can better direct future cultural development.  The map allows users to explore the characteristics of neighborhoods throughout the city, by simply clicking on specific areas.   Other features help users input their ideas and desires for a precise location, such as placing a residential area closer to public transportation.  The program enables users to produce more complex maps showing access to cultural resources, or the uses and amounts of grant funding.  Community members access information through a large list of filters, that can be turned on or off depending on the factors most important to users.  The mapping program provides a great visual resource for residents to better understand and create change in the community.  (Source: CultureBlocks)

Further Reading

Center for Community Mapping

Geographic Information Systems: Tools for Community Mapping – The Community Tool Box

Sitegeist

Green Map