NACIS 2015 presentation about crowdsourced mapping of Boston neighborhoods
Axis Maps | @awoodruff
New York Times / University of Wisconsin | @wallacetim
What even are they?
Architecture & physical character
Neighborhoods are both spatial and social
constructions—and are almost always
Ofﬁcial lines must be drawn somewhere, in
order to facilitate things like censuses, urban
planning, municipal services, mail delivery,
government representation, &c.
Sometimes a line drawn for one purpose is
used for another because it’s convenient.
And all lines might differ from prevailing
Distinctive neighborhoods with strong
identities and histories, but no definitive map.
Dr. Azzie Young, president and CEO of the
Mattapan Community Health Center, says
that the issue over the proper boundary has
“caused great furor” in the past.
“The major issue with the expanded map is
that it could seriously skew data for
Mattapan,” says Dr. Young, particularly with
regards to health issues and crime.
Bill Walczak, president of Dorchester’s
Carney Hospital, says that confusion caused
by the shifting boundaries presented a
quandary for him when he ran the Codman
Square Health Center. It makes it more
difﬁcult for educators and health
professionals to track trends over
decades when the borders keep
changing, says Walczak.
Everyone has an opinion.
Curious Bostonographers ask,
What is the sum of those opinions?
Number of polygons for
Neighborhood X intersecting
Total number of polygons
for Neighborhood X
1. Limited to the city of Boston. Lots of
people in “Boston” don’t live in Boston.
2. Limited set of pre-determined
3. No information about the people who
drew on the map nor insight into why they
drew what they did.
4. Not a representative sample.
by Nick Martinelli
Inspired by our project, but way better. So
we, in turn, made a new version using his
Early feedback suggested shifting focus away
from edges and toward points that are central
or important to neighborhoods.
Participants are now invited either to draw
shapes or to place markers—or both!
More than boundaries
No restrictions on geography or names: it’s no
longer Where is Neighborhood X? but rather
What/where is your neighborhood?
We collect more information: how long (if at
all) people have lived in the neighborhoods
they drew, and any stories they want to tell
about a place.
Simply trace a shape with your mouse—
or your finger.
We hope that this, along with mobile-
friendly styles, makes it easier to reach
Easy to use
Modified versions of Leaflet.FreeDraw and
Leaflet.Editable for drawing.
Shape data are posted to (and read from) two
tables—one for polygons and one for points.
Results so far
Look at the length-of-residency data.
Reach more people in underrepresented areas.
Work with people who might be able to use
this kind of data or tool!
People are passionate.
Participation has been surprising considering
there’s no incentive.
People still disagree.
“Your map is wrong!” remains a common first
reaction to our analyses and explorations.
Guess what happens
when you let people on
the internet draw things.
…and if you know Boston and contribute at
bostonography.com • @bostonography • @awoodruff • @wallacetim