Friday, March 16, 2012

Mapping New York's Hidden Gems: Text 2 for Assignment 2

NMN Assignment 2 for:JessL
3 links stacked by hburridge | 1 views

In the Guardian newspaper's article, Mapping New York's Hidden Gems, Simon Rogers explains how New Yorkers are reclaiming the privately owned public spaces in the city through crowdsourcing.

Private companies receive exemptions to the city's zoning rules by building and maintaining spaces that are open to the public. But once the space has been built, no one checks to see if it remains open. The spaces are often locked up behind fences or are patrolled by security guards.

Michael Keller, along with the help of Brian Lehrer's morning radio program, received a list of these spaces and asked New Yorkers to visit them and report on their state. Keller and Lehrer are using crowdsourcing to have citizens review and document the spots using a GPS-enabled map.

As Howard Rheingold (2011) said in his lecture on smart mobs for MIT, mobile technology allows us to connect in ways were unable to before. By combining maps, GPS, mobile phones and an Internet database, Keller and Lehrer have created a virtual army of zoning officers who can patrol the city looking for violations and can report their findings. They are able to crowdsource the labour to willing participants, and in turn, the space checkers feel a bit more ownership over their city. They were able to turn a dull, seemingly unimportant list of zoning violations into a city-wide scavenger hunt.


Rheingold, H. (2002).  “Smart mobs: The next social revolution.”  MIT World. [Video file]. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from

Rogers, S. (2011, November 9). Mapping New York's hidden gems: How crowdsourcing is taking the city back. Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from


  1. Hello Hillary,

    Really interesting article. Reading through it made me think about my experiences with smart mobs and crowd sourced maps. Often in journalism school, we were encouraged to use user generated maps as parts of our coverage. If you're interested in developing your own crowdsourced map, I really like for embeding, as well as Google maps.

    I'm planning a move to Toronto in the next month and have found these and other similar GPS based services that bring in apartment listings to be incredibly helpful. As the technology develops more, I really think we'll start to see this kind of projects pop up around the globe!

  2. Thanks Jarett,

    I agree, especially when you consider maps that work with apps such as Layar that embed content that can only be accessed in certain locations. It reminds me of Sue Thomas' presentation (2008) where she described the African tribesman who said that certain stories can only be told by this tree. They've taken the same concept and made it digital, like a scavenger hunt for knowledge.

    There's a Marshall McLuhan walking tour in Toronto that MACT students may enjoy.

    Patrick Cain, used to work at The Toronto Star building their maps using access to information requests and other findings. His work was a fantastic compilation of information and maps, but sadly, he's moved on to other work. His final blog post (called "-30-") and some of his most interesting maps are available here.

    It's great to hear that you're coming to Toronto. I'll show you some hot spots if you're interested. Apartment hunting in Toronto is a bit of an art. I'd recommend to see the place before you sign on the dotted line. You might also want to check out Cain's map about bed bug populations in the city. Or, better yet, skip that one.


    Cain, P. (2010, July 10). -30-. The Toronto Star. Retrieved March 19, 2012 from

    Cain, P. (2010, March 30). Map of the week: Bedbugs report. The Toronto Star. Retrieved March 19, 2012 from

    Thomas, S. (Presenter). (2008). Transliteracy lecture [Vimeo video]. Institute of Creative Technologies. Retrieved March 19, 2012 from