The Mapping Crowd: Macrotask Crowdsourcing in Disaster Response

  • Ned PrutzerEmail author
Part of the Human–Computer Interaction Series book series (HCIS)


Large-scale citizen involvement in disaster mapping is relatively recent yet impactful. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOT) and Public Lab, two particular communities at the forefront of this shift, formed in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2010 BP Oil Spill, respectively. This chapter compares and contrasts how these online communities employ crowdsourcing to aid in disaster response efforts. I employ OpenStreetMap (OSM) Analytics; Social Network Analysis; interviews with members from both mapping communities; my own experiences contributing via participant observation; and insights from OSM Users’ Diaries and Public Lab research notes to do so. I also analyze community strategies and interface logistics involved in the work of both groups. Both communities are the result of ecologies of mobile applications, commercial imagery sets, government agencies, NGOs, and concerned citizens. The campaigns that result from these ecologies are branded as more efficient, cost-effective, and resonant with current political, economic, and social transformations. To help identify these changes, I overview imagined public uses of GPS explored within President Bill Clinton’s and President George W. Bush’s administrations. While the disaster response application fits within these intended uses on various levels, the scale of crowdsourcing applications demonstrated through these projects was largely unanticipated. In taking a historical perspective to the public use of GPS, I discuss how the rise of crowdsourced approaches correlates with an increased public unease with more traditional government responses to natural disasters that undergirds these communities.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Communications and Media, Institute of Communications ResearchUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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