A week or two ago, I blogged about the rise of new sorts of eco-digital commons that blend virtual spaces with environmental management. It's a bit of serendipity to learn this week about the a fascinating new online tool, the Great Lakes Commons Map. The map is an interactive platform that solicits contributions and conversation by people who love the Great Lakes. The idea is to turn a resource that is often seen as belonging to no one into one that is actively stewarded by everyone. How? By inviting everyone to post their own videos, text, photos and comments about specific portions of the Great Lakes. Over time, it is hoped that the site will help build a new shared “mental map” and shared space for people to talk about the Great Lakes as an integrated bioregion -- and to take action to defend it.
The map was created by Paul Baines, an environmental educator, and Darren Puscas of reWORKit (“web production for unions and social change”). Here is Haines' video introduction to the map. Haines hopes that the website will help people annotate their conservation projects, cleanups, ecological education and restoration initiatives, activist efforts, walking tours, historical markings, and other Great Lakes projects on a single site, and thereby illustrate how and why the Lakes are a commons. Anyone can post their own personal stories, reports of threats to the Lakes' ecological health, alerts that seek to organize and educate, notices about upcoming events, etc.
Haines eventually hopes to make it possible to post and share video and audio on the site; use SMS and Twitter feeds for reporting and campaigning; host workshops and training on community mapping; and translate the website into other languages.
What’s especially beautiful about the site is its use of Ushahidi, an open source, interactive geospatial platform for the crowdsourcing of information in crisis situations. The platform has been used to enable the geospatial visualization human trafficking, for example. Haines adapted it to serve as a way to crowdsource information, images, video and more that can create a new shared cultural space for saving the Great Lakes.