Maps for Advocacy: Tactical Tech

“Smog, fast-vanishing forest space, protest marches, human rights abuses and myriad such events and activities need constant attention and backing. Highlighting such issues is no more a herculean task for advocacy groups. Information, communication and digital technologies have smoothened out processes and systems and contain techniques and tools which, if appropriately used, can easily bring about phenomenal change.

Geographical maps are the latest transformation tools that the technological revolution has enabled.

The Darfur project ( undertaken by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) where mapping was used to expose a humanitarian crisis in Sudan is a prime example. Combining mapping and rich content, witness testimonies, satellite imagery, data and other information placed on a Google Earth map, the USHMM raised awareness of the reality of incidents in the Sudanese region.

ALTSEAN-Burma, a network of organisations and individuals working to support the movement for human rights and democracy in Burma, also utilised mapping techniques to indicate details of the uprising in 2007. Protest details and ‘hot spots’ for activists ( were listed on a Google Map and the artful effort acted as an effective eye-opener to target audiences.

Recognising the power of maps, we have published a booklet - Maps for Advocacy - which is an introduction to Geographical Mapping Techniques.

The booklet is an effective guide to using maps in advocacy. The mapping process for advocacy is explained vividly through case studies, descriptions of procedures and methods, a review of data sources as well as a glossary of mapping terminology. Scattered through the booklet are links to websites which afford a glance at a few prolific mapping efforts.

Hosting a map on your website can now become a reality as the guide takes the reader through the specifics of the process. Examples of valuable data sources like youtube, facebook, flickr, socialight etc have been cited along with a brief outline of their mapping features.

The fold-out offers an illustrative sketch of the inside story while the fold-in lists a swift and easy method to create a map.

The purpose of the booklet is to enable advocacy groups explore the potential of maps to effectively send out their message.”

10 Tactics for Turning Information into Action

Info Activism from Tactical Technology Collective on Vimeo.

A project from Tactical Tech (, which includes 35 interviews with human rights advocates from around the world and features 10 tactics for turning information into action.

Mapping Global Migration

“Laura Kurgan collaborated with Diller, Scofidio and Renfro, Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin on Exits: a project in two parts, a multi-media installation which was on view at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France from November 2008 – March 2009 as part of “Elsewhere starts here,” conceptualized by Paul Virilio. The project was part of a larger exhibition, Terre Natale: Stop Eject.

Global populations are unstable and on the move. Unprecedented numbers of migrants are leaving their countries for economic, political and environmental reasons. Exits, a project in two parts was created to quantify and display this increasing global trend. The first part offers an aesthetic reframing of the media’s coverage of global migrations. 48 computers hanging from the gallery ceiling store and display a living archive of news footage, photographs and documentaries about global migration and its causes. The clips are choreographed according to content and a variety of visual parameters, and programmed to move within the grid of screens.”

Terre Natale - Population Shift (Pixel Flock) from Stewdio on Vimeo.

Crime Mapping and SMS Could Reduce Mexican Crime

...Nearly a year after the massive anti-crime protests in Mexico, little has changed to curb crime or to improve relations between citizens and law enforcement.  Originally, as a result of the protests, the government promised to “root out corrupt police moonlighting for kidnapping rings, better coordinate police actions, and create more citizen watch groups.” And although the government says it has accomplished its goals, citizens still feel unsafe.

Overcoming a Culture of Not Reporting Crime

The real problem, pointed out by one citizen, is not police corruption itself, but rather Mexico’s culture of not reporting crime. Many citizens do not report crime out of fear of retaliation from criminals, or fear that the police that they report to are corrupt and won’t pay attention anyway. The article points out that as much as 80% of crime goes unreported.

What exists, then, is a massive lack of trust between citizens and law enforcement. This mistrust leads to a culture of fear toward law enforcement. Just like any neighborhood in the United States, if citizens fear the police, they will not work with them to reduce crime—or even report it. The problem of mistrust, then, is the root of the problem.

Quelling Fear Through Anonymity and Technology

Fear and mistrust are bred from secrecy. One of the ways that Mexico can encourage citizens to trust police is to open up crime data to the public. Illuminemos (“Light Up Mexico”), an organization dedicated to reducing crime in Mexico, has reportedly published a crime map to combat the lack of information from police (although, I have not been able to find it). Nevertheless, public-facing crime mapping could prove a useful public relations tool for a government trying to instill its citizens with trust in law enforcement. Pushing actual crime data to a publicly available site not only gives citizens the information they need to track crime and protect themselves, but opening the data up to the public shows that the government trust the public with the information. If the government offers an olive branch, through public-facing crime mapping, they prove that they are not hiding anything and that they are actively seeking citizen participation in reducing crime.

In addition, some citizens do not report crime for fear of retaliation. CiviRep, a pioneering SMS crime reporting system has been deployed in Venezuela (read more about it here). The system allows citizens to use cell phones to anonymously report crime from any location. The crime info is sent to local police who can respond and map crime in real time. A similar system, deployed in Mexico, could help quell the fear of retaliation and increase crime reporting dramatically.


Granted, there are some technological issues to overcome in deploying public crime mapping and text message crime reporting. For instance, because addresses in Mexico are not clearly defined or regulated, mapping by address could be a problem, forcing police to map crime by GPS coordinates. In addition, the money may not be available to build or maintain these systems. However, working toward these technological solutions to reduce crime and create openness could provide a positive return on investment for citizens and the Mexican government

Get on the crime map at

Original article at:

On Map-Making, Community Building and Livability

“Maps are not innocent.”  In this video, the Capital B initiative of Chez Bushwick looks at how maps direct flows and movement of people. Can maps provide icons of livable neighborhoods and demonstrate how real estate might be a point of resistance?

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Lina Srivastava

Lina Srivastava helps agents of social change by providing socially conscious and business-savvy strategic consulting services.

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