Nonprofit, Research

Deep Maps: Better Stories, Better Services

Sharon Kandris
Sharon Kandris

By Sharon Kandris, Director, Community Informatics and SAVI

Imagine a map of your neighborhood or of the community you serve.  Many people think of dots representing points of interest, perhaps boundaries, maybe something portraying the demographics of the area and the resources available.  This is useful and informative, but it also provides a limited view of the community.  It portrays the community the way the map creator wants to depict it, for good or for bad.

Now, imagine a “map” that virtually immerses you in the neighborhood and allows you to explore and discover information about the neighborhood’s history, its culture, how it relates to other neighborhoods, how it has been impacted by regional or even national events, and how it relates to the organizations that operate within or serve that area.  Imagine photographs from fifty years ago and audio recordings of people in the neighborhood describing what it was like to grow up there – and hearing that from multiple perspectives (the businessman, the resident, the old, the young, the black, the white).  Imagine linking that with data to understand racial and economic differences and how that impacts varying viewpoints and how that has changed over time.  Imagine being able to use all of this to share stories of the neighborhood with an on-line, interactive tool.  This is the concept of a “deep map.”

What’s the significance to nonprofits, community-based organizations, and researchers?  This will help us understand community dynamics, relationships between and among organizations and communities, and how and why community issues (health, education, poverty, etc.) differ by place.  With this knowledge, we can better focus our services and resources to address community concerns.  And, it promises to change the way we share the stories of our communities!

During the last two weeks of June, 20 scholars from around the world came to The Polis Center and worked together to define a “deep map”.  The participants wrote blogs during the institute, each providing a window into the process of defining a deep map, the important elements of a deep map, and how the deep map will change the way we discover and represent information about our communities.  Here are links to several of those blogs:

Defining Deep Maps

Wordling to a Definition

Experience, Place, Immersion (and Color)

Deep Mapmakers as Artists

Quest for Deep Maps

Catch the Wind

All of the blog posts can be found on The Polis Center’s Blog

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