Digital Humanities: What Can Be Achieved
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Crowdsourced Spatial Project Participation

Collaborative Mapping
1. MapSwipe

07 Mar 2017: Cyclone Enawo hits Madagascar.­
Impact: Scale of destruction huge. 160,000 people displaced.
Purpose: Get immediate help to those affected.
Mapping Stats: 776 people have mapped 64%.

I was eager to participate in a Crowdsourced project as I had previously completed a project on the Humanitarian work of the World Health Organisation and I applaud the fantastic work they do. They rely heavily on satellite imagery for logistical purposes to provide emergency responses to disaster relief. Mobiles are now part of this global effort to map areas not previously covered in the form of mapping apps such as MapSwipe and text messaging on the ground. I too followed closely the work of band aid and the logistical problems they faced trying to get food to the most needy places. The impact of mapping, as much of the world as possible, means that in the event of a disaster we can be readily prepared to deal with emergencies efficiently. Areas are prioritised according to the likely hood of adverse weather conditions causing flooding etc., War zones, famines and disease.

I Chose Madagascar as my Dad like many other Soldiers was conscripted into the army during the 2nd world war and was stationed in Madagascar. They made friends with the locals and my Dad said they were lovely people and after the war he used to communicate with some of them by letter. I Thought I would like to see what this area was like : )

To date I have 156 tasks synced.

Overall I found the Missing maps project very beneficial. I started with installing the MapSwipe app and when I had chosen a project to work on, familiarised myself with the controls by taking the introductory tutorial. My task was to mark out houses villages or huts. Clever idea to usilizse mobile phone users – estimated market of 344.3 million handsets globally shipped first 1/4 this year – to complete missing maps. The app was simple to use, tap once = yes houses present > turns tile green, twice = maybe houses present > yellow; three times = can’t make it out > red; cloud cover etc. Initially app was not stable, crashing frequently around the 30% mark, but I did notice it saved what was completed. Now it will run to 100% with no further problems. Reason , Bug issues resolved. I liked the encouraging pop up text as you work through the map. I was able to take screen shots of my work, It instills the feel good factor, helping others less fortunate. 

There is room for improvement: No button at end of tutorial to go directly to mapping No menu just social media button might be inclined to wander.

Phone connects to network automaticlly & logs you in but no option to log out no access to view stats other than what’s flashed on the bottom of the screen in the form of a percentage throughout the task and If you complete the task you see the number of tasks synced.

You Need good eyesight even with zooming the tile, by clicking and holding it. Broken screens are a disadvantage to zooming.

Initial thoughts: Malicious users could try to sabotage this good work by tapping when they shouldn’t! However there are a number of layers to this process. It is verified and validated by many people worldwide and while it may slow progress it could be looked at as a ripple rather than an eruption.

Makes you feel fortunate that you were born where you were, so many living in huts & less fortunate.


I went on to investigate how the Humanatarian Open Street Map Team (HOT) responded to global disasaters. It is amazing to think that I can dive in to places I’ve never been and help in such a profound way, when people are most vunerable in disaster stricken areas. My contribution along with others world wide makes a fundamental difference to the length of time it takes to logistically organise and bring the required help to those involved. Crisis management evolved!

HOT had a much more comprehensive tool than MapSwipe, suitable for the PC, Android and IOS. Pointing out the merits of MapGive, it provides a very good tutorial on how to trace buildings, roads and points of interest as welll as explaining the reason why this is important.

I Choose Task: #2665 – Cyclone Enawo: Maroantsetra, Madagascar 2- BUILDINGS TASK – Post-event Imagery I was eager to see how HOT compared to MapSwipe for the same region.

Read the brief. Suitable for intermediate to advanced mappers. Align the imagery as there is an offset between what has been mapped and the given imagery.

Initial problem with installing JOSM …………. needed java 8 for compatability! Once I had fixed all technical issues – install java 8 Runtime Environmet, run gpx file http://tasks.hotosm.org/project/2665/task/317.gpx – I was able to install JOSM but HOTOSM was not talking to JOSM and I encountered problems trying to run the map from within JOSM:

To be continued…….

3. OSM – Open Street Map

So I proceeded to edit the above task in OSM using the ID Editor as it was a listed option. The walk through Tutorial was very informative and interactive: Learn to Map Buildings, Adding a Building. Very clear instructions even down to brightening the background.

I was able to zoom in and out, click and drag to move around, outline buildings and attach the label House to each one. I mapped using points lines and rectangles. This allows for a quick overall view of where most people are living and gives an idea of the logistics involved in managing emergency services and staff on the ground. House density, road networks, Topography, terrain, overgrowth forest, urban, getting there safely, etc.

Simple program to use well laid out with flexible desktop working environmet. If you can read and write you can use it! More detailed work in OSM in comparison to MapSwipe, naming streets buildings etc. classification of road network etc. This task was focused on Buildings only. A collaborative endeavour, allowing you the power to verify other peoples work to complete projects.


Always one for a challenge. I got my debugging binoculars on and drilled down to see the microorganism of dreaded fear of many a computer programmer. I believe it fell into a black hole : ) and while HOT OSM was still not befriending JOSM as I would like, I was able to do a work around. Backward engineering as such, because working in JOSM and updating the MAP, it in turn updated HOTOSM. However it only listed my work as 1 contribution rather than the many I made which was visible in JOSM. None the less this is an issue for HOT OSM & JOSM and possibly outside the scope of this exercise. What I would say is that if you encountered problems with the program initially, most people would problably not be inclined to fix the issues and this would be a helper lost! But WOW what a program (when it’s working)! The layering, selection of tools, search capabilities, transportation and facilities is impressive. Very detailed environment and for the novice but easy to use for basic tracing tasks.

My brief involved lining up the imagery, I accomplished this by using the search facillity for the exact area as the download option was not working. I loaded 2 of the search results and zoomed in on the affected areas, importing any missing imagery. Useful Tip: Right click & hold to drag map : ) Three options to adjust imagery offset: Bing not refreshing fast enough, Digital Globe Standard imagery worked better however Digital Globe Premium imagery loaded instantly and provided the best clarity to align the maps. I adjusted the offset with a combination of right clicking and dragging into place and inputting numbers in the Adjust Offset Imagery box. Job done then? Not quite! While most of the buildings lined up there was a scattering rather than a concentration that didn’t so I worked through several tiles cleaning up adjusting contours and placement of some of the buildings. I uploaded the updated the map and returned to HOT OSM and refreshed same. It worked! All that was left to do was Validate the outstanding tiles . I validated and this saw the completion of the project for Madagascar : ) That was a lovely feeling : ) Not only had I contributed to such a worthwhile project I had the privelige of tying it all together 100% complete. This helping others is a powerful thing and I don’t personally know any of them yet maybe a few know of me from my Dad’s time in Madagascar during the war X.

4. Task: Map Camden Fort Meagher, Crosshaven Co. Cork

I was eager to see how I could adapt what I had learned about collaborative Humanitarian Mapping to help our understanding of fortifications such as Camden Fort Meagher. My first task was to see what if any of it had been mapped. Military establishments are notoriously secretive and through my research have noted most maps didn’t include them as if they didn’t exist! Surprisingly some buildings were mapped on OSM and some incorrectly. Please see map at end of text.

I deleted sections that were incorrectly marked off as an area / building

I added a field for a website to reference what a casemate building is.

I added a field for a website to reference buildings listed on Europeana

I added a label for the the zigzag and linked it to information to explain its purpose.

I added a Description field for every Building / Area / Road / Path / Construction, that I marked on the map. It took several months of meticulous work as I was not just interested in mapping what is here now but how it changed and expanded over the years as technology developed. There were some limitations as the tool is not specifically designed for this purpose. No option to link the date specifically with the text for each year as you c an only include 1 type of each description / note.


BCNorwich Bing, OSM Inspector Geometry Deleted parts of my map as there was an overlap. Over the years buildiings had been either extended, connected to the building alongside or knocked down and a new buiiding erected in its place. I did reply to BCNorwich email and explain why there was an overlap.

Also another issue here is that People can log in to OSM click a changeset and then save it as if it’s their work. Text and positioning is exactly as I listed it so what constitutes an edit?

OSMs have layers: Standard, Cycle, Transport and Humanitarian. Another way to list these buildings is within JOSM creating offline layers – an Historical Layer or Layers but to use the data it needs to be uploaded to OSM Servers and will be editable again by the masses. If it wasn’t for the fact that I got the opportunity to map through crowdsourcing I wouldn’t have been able to create this map and while a few changes may have occurred it still preserves the integrity of the Fortification.  Overall a worthwhile exercise with a fun interactive element that is both educational as well as enlightening.


http://www.idc.com/promo/smartphone-market-share/os Source: IDC, May 2017

An early Open Street Map of Camden Fort Meagher.

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