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Watch This Video: Mapping Our Way with OpenStreetMap
Sarah Kuck, 2 Feb 09

As a species, we humans always been prone to transiency. Our ancestors traversed across the globe in search of new resources, adventure or beauty. And although the motivation for each journey was not always altruistic, each expedition added to our collective migratory map and connected us to the world in new and different ways.


Mapping our migratory patterns has never been an easier or more inclusive process. Even our minute migrations throughout our cities are now being recorded and studied. Using webtools such as OpenStreetMap, thousands of individuals are collaboratively mapping the entire world. OSM was create to provide free geographic data, such as street maps, to anyone who wants them. In 2008, more than 20,000 people edited the wiki-style map, adding the ways they know of for moving from place to place with the help of GPS devices, digital cameras and voice recorders.

This video shows a year's worth of edits made to the OSM wiki. "The animation displays a white flash each time a way is entered or updated. Some edits are a result of a physical local survey by a contributor with a GPS unit and taking notes, other edits are done remotely using aerial photography or out-of-copyright maps, and some are bulk imports of official data," according to the video's creators at

OSM 2008: A Year of Edits from ItoWorld on Vimeo.

Maps allow us to step back and evaluate our reality in ways that we might not have been able to originally see. Tools like OpenStreetMap are helping us see how connected we truly are -- and perhaps how easily we could use this connectivity to mobilize and create the just and prosperous future we imagine.

Do you feel that maps can help us see how these changes are happening more clearly? Have you witnessed any new examples of how we are using our linkages to make change?

Image credit: Wikipedia

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You may be interested to know that OpenStreetMap stores a full history of changes made to the map over time. Now at this stage, editing history will mostly be a record of how map coverage is growing (the white flashes seen on that video), this is interesting in itself, but maybe one day the OpenStreetMap editing history will start to give an indication of where changes are happening in the real world. New roads and new housing being built for example.

We'd need to get full coverage first though. We need more people, in more parts of the world to join in with creating the map, and that includes YOU. Find out about the project here:

Posted by: Harry Wood on 13 Aug 09

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