Grants:IEG/GIS and Cartography in Wikimedia

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GIS and Cartography in Wikimedia

project contact:

evelyn.hammid(_AT_), djensen(_AT_)


Evelyn Hammid, Darin Jensen


Incorporating GIS and cartography classes into the USEP and conducting outreach to mapmakers to improve Wikimedia map content.

engagement target:

English Wikipedia

strategic priority:

Improving Quality

total amount requested:

27,000 USD

2013 round 1

Project idea[edit]

Maps are an important encyclopedic resource, but the pool of existing maps (especially thematic maps) that are available under a free license and appropriate for use on Wikimedia projects is relatively small. The advent and popularization of desktop geographic information systems (GIS) software such as the open source Quantum GIS and the proprietary ArcGIS, as well as the prevalence of graphic design software, means that the creation of maps appropriate for use on Wikimedia projects is far easier than it has previously been. However, the creation of maps is still not simple and requires a specialized skillset.

Some existing Wikimedians are quite skilled at creating maps, but the need for high quality maps to use on Wikimedia projects is far greater than what can be created by existing Wikimedia movement members. Since the supply of existing high quality freely licensed maps is quite limited, the easiest road to solving this problem involves the recruitment of additional contributors who have the skillset necessary to create high quality maps. A fairly large and growing community of people who possess this skillset does exist - it just has not had substantial interaction with the Wikimedia movement to date. Many members of this community are aligned with the goals of the Wikimedia movement and would readily contribute to the projects if they were made aware of the need and empowered with the tools to do so easily.

A large and increasing number of colleges, universities and even high schools offer classes or entire programs devoted to GIS and cartography. Although no GIS or cartography classes have participated in the existing US Education Program (USEP), educational outreach to these classes is a logical way to draw new contributors who are able to create useful maps into the Wikimedia movement, especially if that outreach is enabled by reusable resources geared specifically towards introducing people with mapmaking skills to the Wikimedia movement. These reusable resources can also be used in outreach to existing non-educational GIS and cartography communities.

In order to increase the availability and use of maps on Wikimedia movement projects, we would like to launch a project aimed at recruiting cartographically-skilled contributors to the Wikimedia projects via two pathways: educational outreach in the style of the existing USEP and outreach to non-educational GIS and cartography communities. These two pathways will be facilitated by the creation of reusable resources geared towards introducing people with mapmaking skills to the Wikimedia community.

Project goals[edit]

The central goal of the project is to increase the availability of high quality maps to Wikimedia movement communities by attracting more contributors skilled in GIS and cartography to the Wikimedia movement. We will do so by:

  • Promoting and supporting the participation of GIS and cartography classes in the US Education Program and encouraging students to create maps for Wikimedia projects.
  • Conducting outreach to GIS and cartography communities outside of educational institutions to encourage cartographic contributions to Wikimedia projects.

Part 2: The Project Plan[edit]

Project plan[edit]


Scope and activities[edit]

Recruiting GIS and cartography classes into USEP[edit]

This will require speaking to GIS and cartography instructors about the benefits of contributing to Wikimedia projects and explaining the work involved in doing so. This can be facilitated by creating a one-pager and other outreach materials outlining this information, which can be used to appeal to GIS and cartography instructors in the future.

Planning GIS and cartography course participation in Wikimedia projects[edit]

We will determine how student projects in participating classes can contribute to the needs of Wikimedia projects through communicating with Wikimedia communities. We will create a standard Powerpoint presentation for GIS and cartography classes explaining the basics of contributing maps to Commons and provide workshops to support students on their projects. These resources will be transferable to future projects.

Contacting cartographers outside of schools[edit]

We will discuss the benefits of contributing maps to Wikimedia projects with cartographers outside of educational institutions. Darin Jensen is connected to many networks of cartographers, having recently published a collection of thematic maps on food created by "guerrilla cartographers" around the world titled Food: An Atlas. These cartographers will likely be aligned with the values of democratic access to information that Wikimedia holds and likely be interested in contributing. Many of the resources we create for the USEP GIS and cartography classes will be useful for appealing to these communities and assisting them with the process of contributing maps.

Improving map-related community spaces on Wikimedia projects[edit]

In order to support both pathways, we will work to ensure that relevant community spaces on both the English Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Commons are up-to-date and include helpful introductory resources. The portals that we have currently targeted include Wikiproject Maps on the English Wikipedia, Map Resources on Wikimedia Commons, and the graphics lab map workshops on both the English Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. Currently, Wikiproject Maps and Map Resources are completely inactive, and the graphics lab map workshops are only intermittently active. Our goal is to ensure that all four targeted community spaces function as useful introductory portals for new Wikimedians, are actively used by experienced Wikimedians who have map-related needs or map production skills, and are responsible for the coordination and generation of significant quantities of high quality maps for use on Wikimedia projects.


June 2013: Contacting GIS and cartography instructors who teach at public schools in California about participating in the USEP and contributing maps to Wikimedia projects, contacting cartographers.

July-August 2013: Discussing the cartographic needs of Wikipedia and related projects with community members, creating resources on creating content for Wikimedia for both instructors and mapmakers, Wikimedia outreach to mapmakers from communities outside schools, further outreach to instructors at additional schools.

August-December 2013: Assisting participating courses in integrating Commons and Wikipedia contribution into their curriculums through hosting workshops for students and providing support for instructors and students, further outreach to GIS and cartography communities at and outside schools.

December 2013: Creating a report on the achievements and experiences of courses that participated in the fall semester/winter quarter, documenting increased activity and content contribution to map-related Wikimedia projects.

Tools, technologies, and techniques[edit]

We will be creating reusable educational material for GIS and cartography outreach inside and outside classrooms. This will include brief documents and Powerpoint presentations. We will also be preparing workshop agendas for assisting participants with incorporating their work into Wikimedia projects.


Total amount requested[edit]


Budget breakdown[edit]

Up to $6,500 in travel expenses, including: covering the cost of travel by the grantees or by local Wikimedians in some cases to participating schools to present workshops, the cost of travel to relevant conferences where we can participate in ways that have a high potential of benefiting the project (potentially including Wikimania if we have a presentation accepted,) and other travel costs for purposes that have a high potential of benefiting the project.

Up to $2,500 in outreach material costs, including printing costs and some Wikipedia swag for participants, and any professional services needed to produce high quality reusable materials.

Up to $16,000 to compensate the grantees for their time commitments. We expect that we will both be committing significant amounts of time to the project, more than we could commit on an uncompensated basis.

$2,000 as a reserve to cover any expenses that we do not anticipate ahead of time that appear to be cost effective ways to improve the degree of success of the project, as well as overages from project areas. Our reserve will also be buffered by excess funds from any underages in project areas.

Our final report will include full documentation of our spending, and we will be returning any remaining funds to the Wikimedia Foundation at the end of the grant period.

Intended impact:[edit]

Target audience[edit]

The entire Wikimedia userbase will ultimately be benefited by this project. This will especially serve Wikimedia contributors specializing in geographical entries.

Fit with strategy[edit]

This project will both increase participation in and improve the quality of Wikimedia projects. By expanding the USEP into GIS and cartography courses we will be exposing new students and instructors with different skillsets to the Wikimedia movement. Through outreach to non-school communities we will be exposing additional communities with desired skills to the Wikimedia movement. Our outreach will be directed to people who already have strong mapmaking skills or who are training with talented instructors. By getting involved in the Wikimedia movement, they will share their high quality products with Wikimedia's viewership.


We aim to establish ongoing involvement in the USEP for the GIS and cartography courses we recruit for this project. The instructors of these courses may also recruit additional instructors with whom they have academic connections to involve their courses in Wikimedia projects in the future. The non-school mapmaking communities we work with can spread their knowledge and involvement of participation in the Wikimedia movement to their own networks as well. We will demonstrate that contributing to Wikimedia can be a fun and appealing way to share one's cartographic work. The informational resources we create for this project can be reused by others interested in this project.

Measures of success[edit]

  1. Engaging at least six GIS or cartography classes in California in the US Education Program in the fall 2013 term, exposing all enrolled students to the fundamental ideas behind the Wikimedia movement and involving them in the production of map resources that will be of use to Wikimedia movement communities while documenting the processes and results of these classes in a way that allow expansion beyond California in future terms.
  2. Conducting direct outreach to GIS and cartography instructors at other colleges, universities and possibly high schools, exposing them to the idea of the USEP and the model of engagement used by GIS and cartography classes at UC Berkeley and encouraging the participation of their classes in future terms. We will consider this goal to be adequately achieved if GIS or cartography instructors in at least six additional schools (preferably including at least three outside California) participate in the USEP in the winter 2013 quarter or spring 2013 semester
  3. Expanding the community of cartographers contributing to Wikimedia projects in a meaningful way and increasing the level of discussion that occurs on the projects related to the production and use of maps. Since directly measuring the level of cartographic activity on the projects can be difficult, we will use a proxy: we will consider this goal to have been met if we have increased the activity levels of targeted community portals so that they have new activity at least twice a week and normally have new queries answered within 24 hours.
  4. Producing a collection of useful reusable resources primarily aimed at new cartographers in the Wikimedia movement, including, but not limited to: a one-page letter aimed at involving GIS and cartography instructors in Wikipedia education programs, instructional design materials aimed at GIS and cartography instructors engaged in education program activity, presentations on contributing to Commons and Wikipedia for use in workshops, a community portal that serves as an approachable entry point for contributing maps to Wikimedia movement communities and other outreach-oriented mapmaking materials.
  5. Successfully executing all of the previous goals in a way that does not significantly increase the workload of existing Wikimedia movement communities and in a way that is not significantly disruptive to any existing Wikimedia community. We will leave the metric of success for this point as “you’ll know it if you see it,” because we feel the project is unlikely to present significant community disruption, and numerically measuring community disruption would likely take more time than it would be worth.

Risks and challenges[edit]

With any large-scale introduction of new contributors to Wikimedia projects, there is always the risk that some will make mistakes, thus creating clean up work for experienced Wikimedians. Since project participants will be mainly posting map files to Commons, however, the risk of negatively impacting others' work is minimal, and poor maps will simply be deleted. Students new to mapmaking may also make mistakes on their maps, but we expect instructors to catch these mistakes before any projects are posted online.


Evelyn Hammid is a UC Berkeley geography undergraduate student with an interest in GIS and is an English Wikipedia editor. She has taken classes participating in the USEP and she will be graduating in May 2013.

Darin Jensen is the Department Cartographer and a Continuing Lecturer in the Department of Geography at UC Berkeley, teaching cartography and GIS courses. He has an arts and geography background and brings his fine arts sensibilities to map design and production in the service of the map as artifact and narrative device. He has served as cartography advisor on many initiatives and currently advises for The Living New Deal Project and "Critical Sustainabilities: Analyzing Competing Discourses of Urban Development in California" (a California Studies Consortium Research Group). Jensen has published two atlases, Mission Possible: A Neighborhood Atlas (2012), and Food: An Atlas (2013).

Part 3: Community Discussion[edit]


Community Notification:[edit]

Please paste a link to where the relevant communities have been notified of this proposal, and to any other relevant community discussions, here.


Do you think this project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project in the list below. Other feedback, questions or concerns from community members are also highly valued, but please post them on the talk page of this proposal.

  • Chris Carson: As a student of Geography and GIS, I think this is an excellent idea. Students create a wide variety of resources the Wikipedia community can benefit from. In addition from this, advocating for the advancement of education surrounding geography and GIS will be a significant investment toward the improvement of future cartographic projects. Crowdsourcing cartography has proved to be a success in the past, as demonstrated with Darin Jensen's two atlases. I'm incredibly excited for where this could eventually go.Christopher998 (talk) 08:28, 20 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Endorse A maps initiative could bring both quality cartographic materials to wp articles, and new contributors with map skills. As someone who works on geography content and has hassled other overworked Wpians with map skills, I see a great need for progress on maps. I like the idea of approaching the academic community. The Interior (talk) 23:27, 20 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Endorse: I'm the regional ambassador for the USEP for California/Hawaii. I've known Evelyn for the last couple years, and Darin for probably eight months at this point. Neither are terribly experienced Wikipedians, although Evelyn has participated in the USEP in the past, and is also currently a student in a USEP class. I will not be a financial beneficiary of this grant, but, as RA for the area, will be helping them out with parts of the Wikipedia side of the project so as to ensure they have sufficient help on the Wikipedia side of things, as well as helping them connect with other experienced Wikipedians. Darin's last crowdsourced atlas is pretty awesome, and I think demonstrates well his ability to mobilize cartographers. Wikimedia projects are definitely lacking in the high quality cartography department. (Tangentially, from talking to Evelyn yesterday, she'll be making some updates to this proposal today.) Kevin (talk) 17:43, 21 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Community member: add your name and rationale here.
  • Endorse: As the creator and long time editor of the Wiki-fr, Wiki-en WP:Graphic Lab/Map workshop, we are well aware of both the need of real geographic data based maps (GIS), and their success in wikipedia. I would add that we have to move toward ONLINE GIS edition in collaboration with the ongoing initiative. Which already allow to create online GIS maps, which need support (also financial), to connect with wikipedia articles. In all, a solid GIS project i very need to push forward GIS usage on wikipedia, and clarify futures roads to take. Yug (talk) 14:58, 27 March 2013 (UTC)