A Virtual Journey Through #MapLesotho

We are joined by Shawn Day, also known as Eiridium on openstreetmap. Shawn is a lecturer in Social Computing, Data Visualisation, Engagement, Design & the Humanities at University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast.

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It feels as thought I have been there many times — wan­der­ing through rural Leso­tho. Tra­vers­ing table moun­tains, dra­matic escarp­ments, mov­ing from small ham­lets and vil­lages fol­low­ing wind­ing rivers fed by mean­der­ing streams. When I want to travel I choose Screenshot 2014-12-19 12.51.28a task in Open­Street­Map and am trans­por­ted to some­where in rural Leso­tho. I trace streams, identify res­id­ences, farms, com­mer­cial areas and indus­tries and in so doing meet the land­scape, built and nat­ural with great intim­acy. I have developed a unique attach­ment through this vir­tual tour­ism. The amount of verd­ant, stream dom­in­ated, green areas con­tin­ues to amaze me when I real­ise that Leso­tho is a coun­try where all the land is more than 1000 feet above sea level. It’s mar­vel­lously diverse and changes from what seems to be semi-fertile tillable areas to steep cliff faces within short dis­tances. Appre­ci­at­ing it from this unique and priv­ileged per­spect­ive only drives a deep desire to see the land in per­son. The wider pur­pose in what I do though is to con­trib­ut­ing, along with hun­dreds of oth­ers, to cre­ate open and pub­licly usable maps that are avail­able for the bene­fit of the cit­izens of Leso­tho and the wide world. You meet fel­low map­pers in Ire­land, Leso­tho and around the world — vir­tu­ally and face-to-face. It’s a splen­did mis­sion, socially reward­ing and one that I find fun, won­der­fully grat­i­fy­ing and full of future promise.
A few months go I caught passing glance of a tweet men­tion­ing a mapa­thon to be held at the Fin­gal County Coun­cil offices in Swords. Of curi­os­ity I signed up and turned out to be part of a day long push along with map­pers in a vari­ety of other loc­ale to spur the cre­ation of first-pass basemaps that will be refined though col­lect­ive ded­ic­a­tion. Why do I con­tinue to do it? I love maps and I love feel­ing that I am put­ting my own skills to a use that con­trib­utes to a greater whole.  As we watch the pro­gress (and as a group we have now passed the 75% in the rural tasks) that magic 100% will mean that local map­pers can refine the rudi­ment­ary based on their local knowledge.
MapLeso­tho is a global ini­ti­at­ive that demon­strates an emer­ging ethos of social crowd­sourcing that truly bene­fits all par­ti­cipants — each and every draw­ing from the exper­i­ence rewards bey­ond their own contributions.
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