Using Maps for Effective Progressive Messaging

Activists need to embrace the use of maps in our campaigns.

Maps allow you to make information more appealing to the reader, without dumbing down the content (for instance, you don't have to turn your argument into a short slogan). Complex statistical arguments about the correlation between one factor and another are much easier to grasp if they are presented in a nice chart, or better yet, a map.

Currently I'm guessing that we're on the threshold of a coming wave of activist maps. Here are several factors that will start the wave:

1) Google Maps API - has created a renaissance in maps on the internet by making it very easy to create a map, and by provoking a number of competitors (notably Yahoo and ESRI) to provide free APIs.

2) Mapserver - and other open source map software has been steadily improving its technology and will gain from the surge in interest in mapping due to the Google Maps API. If Google ever starts putting too many ads on its maps, then Mapserver or another project will take off and hopefully replace it.

3) AJAX - using javascript as a software platform allows for quick reaction times when you do tasks like click on a map, zoom in/out, pan, etc.

4) Faster computers and more bandwidth - mapping applications can be fairly demanding in terms of CPU power and bandwidth, these demands are now easily met by new computers.

5) Increased availability of free geographical data. This may prove to be a significant stumbling block, particularly outside of the US. We need government agencies, like the Census Bureau, to release as much geographical data as possible for free.

Now what we need is one or more Activist Maps that demonstrate their usefulness. Only then will the larger, less tech-savy, resource-heavy bureaucratic liberal NGOs that dominate the progressive movement start using them. In addition, regular grassroots activists will not be thinking about using them either.

Idea: Possible Killer Map App #1 - The War on Iraq
You have a map of the world. You have two layers. One displays the number of people killed in each country by the war (possibly split into military vs civilian deaths), the other displays the cost of the war.

You zoom in.

Now you have a map of states of a country. You can see the number of people killed and cost by state.

You zoom in.

Now you can see how many people died and the cost by county.

You zoom in.

Now you can see how many people died and the cost by Zip Code (or Census tract).

You could add information like pictures of the military who died (I know this information exists, as I helped carried a half-mile long cord with pictures of US troops who died at a peace march in NYC recently). Maybe you could have a layer for military recruitment. Maybe a layer to show the racial/economic breakdown of the area where the people who died came from (to demonstrate how the poor and people of color are dying in the war).

A General Easy Mapping Framework for Activists
We need a website which has the tools and data to enable regular activists to create a powerful map in an hour, without having to learn the details of this complex technology.

A user should be able to mark one or more things that are "Bad", and get a very accurate placement by using satellite images (for most urban areas, you can pick an exact building). For instance, you might be fighting an environmental hazard.

Then you can select other data that would help you make your case. For instance you might want to show the racial or economic demographics of the area. Or that the area is saturated with other sources of pollution.

This site would let you print out the map or save it, so you can use it in your fliers and other campaign materials.

Ultimately you could have a big open-source map of progressive targets where users could submit information about "bad things" that they are opposing, so that people could link up their struggles. (It'd make sense to integrate this with a map of "good things" - similar to the one of people, groups, and events at