Know Your Watershed, Mapping Rivers, Mapping Our Commons

Mississippi river upstream sources
Part of my childhood was spent living just a mile from the Mississippi up around Minneapolis.  Screenshot from the US National Atlas Streamer Map

Fresh water is more valuable than oil because humanity can live without one of these. There’s something about mapping water, about mapping rivers, that resonates so well with our online hyper connected lives. Maybe it’s because we take water for granted almost as much as we take all of our social connectedness for granted.

Maps used to be very powerful during the so-called age of discovery when sailing ship design and technology was considered to be cutting edge, when surveying the world was celebrated as a great human achievement even though the purpose was largely focused on exploitation of people and their lands. Mapping then was a tool for innovations in what is possible by regimes focused on greed.

"Americae Nova Tabula" by Hondius in 1640.
Americae Nova Tabula” created by Hondius 11 human generations ago  (in 1640)

In today’s geospatial digital mapping the question we should be asking is, as with any technology, who is making it and for whom? As with the Internet itself much of the mapping technology has come from military usage, and much of the power in mapping today is held by the credit card and banking systems that are tracking our spending in great detail to optimize methods for encouraging further spending and debt. So many of these maps are made by the already very powerful for the increasingly more powerful.

Hudson river upstream sources
I live in NYC, along the estuary portion of the Hudson river. NYC’s water source is under threat of fracking. Screenshot from the US National Atlas Streamer Map

This is why it’s refreshing to see maps like this National Atlas Streamer Map created by the National Geospatial Program of the U.S. Geological Survey that provide some service for all of those organizing to protect freshwater for future generations by fighting the selling off of land rights for fracking, and fighting against policies that enable land usage for industrial petrochemical farming and its toxic effects on our world. It’s maps like these that we should be most excited about that should be celebrated, maps like these can better help preserve and protect the commons that we all share. Check it out, pick a place in the US that you know and care for and look at all of the rivers connection.

App Ideas: Public Media Helpers

Bill "don't say torture" Keller and Judith "who knew WMD didn't exist" Miller. Bad apples, or two of thousands of mainstream journalists who suppport a status quo system?

WeMedia browser extension, user story:

I want…

a Firefox plugin that detects any NYT (or other MSM) link and upon clicking on it gives you top non-MSM links on the same topic after parsing the HTML.

So that people can…

get P2P media often with better information & generate less ad revenue for status quo corporate media and instead do more so for independent/local media. I’m not online to get more MSM media. (I don’t know about you, but I’m here to route around it and get more public media, more source/varied/alternative information about our world.)

MSMugwumpScore browser extension, user story:

I want…

a Firefox plugin that looks at a Twitter user’s last 100 tweets and tells you via an overlay near their avatar what percent of their links are to MSM content.

So that people can…

have an ongoing sense of the info-diversity of Twitter users and follow or unfollow based on each person’s threshold percent for normative, and as NYU’s Jay Rosen aptly calls it, “voice from nowhere” news content.