Ignite Talk: Chris Phillips

This is a liveblog post from the International Conference on Crisis Mapping at Tufts University.  You can also follow tweets from the event’s many open laptops at the #ICCM2010 hashtag.

Chris Phillips of Map Action takes the stage for an ignite talk.

“All disasters are different: Haiti was especially so,” notes Phillips, remarking on both the scale of the disaster and the response.

“As a dedicated mapper, you do everything you have to do to get things done,” says Phillips, noting that the lack of Internet in Haiti posed challenges for mappers, who used geocached maps and other tools. In Haiti, he explains, they were able to send search and rescue teams out with printed maps.

Phillips notes that the situation in Haiti was also challenging as many people (and technology) became ill; “I saw a printer catch fire,” he jokes.

“The online mapping community was unprecedented,” notes Phillips, “we were mapping mainly for an offline community on the ground.  We printed and distributed over 5,000 paper maps.”  Whether doing it offline or online, Phillips explains, we’re working toward the same goal.

“The lack of technology available on the ground is a fundamental problem,” explains Phillips, “but when you have something that doesn’t require batteries (such as paper), you can distribute better.”

He also notes that spatial abilities posed a problem; that technologists, mappers, are used to using maps, but that the vast majority of people aren’t spatially aware, thus any solution needs to take into account people who are “not part of our cult.”

“These challenges are not insurmountable,” he concludes, but we need to think about how we distribute data.

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