This past year, the Local Data Design Lab joined with data artist Jer Thorp to undertake a new design research project called the “Map Room.” The overarching goal of the Map Room is to develop local spaces for grassroots map-making, where people can creatively and collaboratively explore data. Initial funding in the summer of 2018 enabled our team to build a map-making space on the Georgia Tech campus using our own custom software. We received support from the National Science Foundation (through the Civic Data Science program) in addition to the Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center. The project has since grown into a multi-site research endeavour focused on understanding how local conditions can productively shape critical and creative inquiry into data. Our regional partners include ATL Maps, the Atlanta Department of City Planning, and the Atlanta History Center. We have also been invited to bring the project to other contexts, such as Savannah, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Boston, Dublin, Istanbul, and Washington D.C.
Our goal is to eventually support the development of 100 or more Map Rooms with arts and education-oriented foundation funding. Several publications about the Map Room are out or currently in the pipeline. An essay on our use of the project with Georgia Tech students to map the Atlanta BeltLine appeared in the Atlanta Studies Journal. The project is also introduced in a paper for CHI, the top conference in human-computer interaction, entitled “Engaging Gentrification as a Social Justice Issue in HCI.” Our paper scored in the top 3.5% of almost 3000 submissions. Coming up, the Map Room will be part of a juried exhibition at the annual meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science. It is also the subject of a new article, currently under review for the “essays and provocations” section of the journal Big Data & Society.