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COMMUNITY MAPPING

AN ASSESSMENT OF AVAILABLE MAPPING TOOLS Prepared for the Centre for City Ecology by JONELLA EVANGELISTA & NABILA PRAYITNO


CENTRE FOR CITY ECOLOGY


MAPPING TOOLS

TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction.....................................................................................1 Community Mapping & its Applications.....................................2 Case Studies......................................................................................3 Categories for Assessment..............................................................4 Mapping Tools: Matrix Assessment...............................................5 Mapping Tools: Case Studies & Assessment................................6 Mapbox................................................................................7 Mango Maps.......................................................................8 CartoDB...............................................................................9 GIS Cloud..........................................................................10 QGIS..................................................................................11 Conclusion.....................................................................................12


CENTRE FOR CITY ECOLOGY

INTRODUCTION The Centre for City Ecology (CCE) aims to create a civic dialogue around urban issues as they work to connect community members with planners, architects, urban designers and other practitioners to engage the public in city building. Building on the success of the TENT (Toronto Envisioning Neighbourhoods Together) project in the Scarborough Neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway Orton Park (KGO), and in an effort to further promote community engagement and empowerment, the CCE undertook a project to assess various community mapping tools for use in KGO and in other small, resident-led city building exercises. Before studying the KingstonGalloway Orton Park area, research of alternative mapping tools was completed by the


MAPPING TOOLS

Centre for City Ecology, in collaboration with two interns from the University of Toronto’s Geography Professional Experience course: Nabila Prayitno and Jonella Evangelista. This research was conducted over a period of four months and involved the examination of precedent mapping projects, various open data sources, GIS tools and techniques, data visualization tools, and online mapping platforms. The purpose of this research was to understand what kinds of mapping tools could be best understood and utilized by selforganizing community members. As an alternative to ArcGIS, which comes at a high cost and prerequisite of background knowledge of the program, alternative online mapping tools were examined. In consideration of working with and for the community, an emphasis on finding tools that were simple to use, highly interactive, and available at a cost suitable to the community were of most value. In this report, several of the mapping platforms researched are displayed in a chart to show how each mapping tool compares to one another based on an established set of assessment criteria. Through the use of checkmarks, this matrix will show how well the mapping tools fulfil certain criteria necessary in creating strong maps. Based on the four months of research and the established assessment criteria, five mapping tools were selected as top choices for use by the community to brainstorm and illustrate their observations and understanding of their neighbourhood into a visual map. In the report that follows, the criteria and performance of these five mapping tools are evaluated in detail. The overall assessment of each mapping tool is conveyed in a rating system based on available features, publishing, usability, affordability, and general visualizations of the map, along with an overall description of the tool.


CENTRE FOR CITY ECOLOGY

COMMUNITY MAPPING

& ITS APPLICATIONS

Mapping goes beyond producing maps and creating graphic representations; it is a way of making sense of the world around us. Community mapping moves away from the top-down approach to mapping and offers an opportunity for residents and community members to gain a greater awareness of their surroundings and develop their visions of their neighbourhood into a comprehensive visual map of their opinions, perceptions and narrative of the neighbourhood. It allows individuals to evaluate the conditions of the built form, taking note of what areas warrant improvement and how their concerns and desires can be addressed. Community mapping initiatives seek to enhance civic literacy and engagement, which can in turn aid in the future planning and development processes of local neighbourhoods.


MAPPING TOOLS

CASE STUDIES The case studies featured in the report that follows are drawn from experimental work done by students enrolled in the University of Toronto Scarborough’s Winter 2015 City Studies Workshop course, led by Zahra Ebrahim, Annabel Vaughan, and Anne Gloger. Five groups of 3-6 students were assigned to work with one of the five selected mapping tools and given the task to create an economic map of Kingston-Galloway Orton Park (KGO). The students worked to produce maps for their “client”, Judy Josefowicz, Manager of Local Economic Opportunities at the East Scarborough Storefront. By mapping the economic landscape of KGO, students were able to develop a better sense of the economic activity and opportunities available in the area. As a prerequisite to using the mapping tools, the students worked in collaboration with the community members to obtain information of the services, amenities and businesses located along the main streets of KGO. From there, they applied the data they collected into maps through the use of features available for each mapping tool. The final maps produced by the students conveyed information and an analysis of the community’s strengths. As a case study, in addition to producing maps, the students evaluated the overall effectiveness of using each mapping tool for community mapping initiatives. Although the students only worked with the mapping tools for a short period of time (4 weeks), it was through their trials and results that the strengths and weaknesses of the each mapping tool became evident. The differences that emerged between the five mapping tools helped to illuminate the limitations and advantages of working with each tool and explains the diverse outcomes of the students’ final maps, both visually and functionally. With that, their assessments of the mapping tools are taken under consideration in the rating process of each of the five mapping tools.


CENTRE FOR CITY ECOLOGY

CATEGORIES FOR ASSESSMENT Features Mapping platforms are designed for different purposes, which is reflected in the unique functionalities that they carry. The types of features available within each mapping platform determine its functionality and its ability to manipulate visual representations of data. With every mapping platform, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with its use. The best mapping platforms have multiple options for data representation. Limited features available within some mapping platforms restricts their use.

Publishing Mapping platforms feature various options to allow for publishing maps. A mapping platform with an online interface may allow the user to share maps using a web link or by embedding the map on a website. All mapping platforms typically allow the user to export maps into PDF or JPG file formats for printing purposes, as well as to KML and SHP formats for use in other softwares.


MAPPING TOOLS

Usability Levels of accessibility inherent to different mapping platforms relates to the ability of a user to simply use the tool. A number of non-user friendly mapping platforms require experience with JavaScript and ArcGIS, placing restrictions on users with minimal to no knowledge of these technical skills. Additionally, incompatibilities when importing various file formats restricts the accessibility of the mapping platform. Some mapping tools allow for use by multiple users on the same account.

Affordability Different costs are associated with different mapping platforms, depending on the package that the user has subscribed to. Typically, mapping platforms with multiple features are costly. Therefore, it is important to consider if the platform provides special discounts for non-profit organizations. Many mapping platforms have a trial version or a free version available, but often with limited data capacity.

Visualization Mapping platforms should also be evaluated based on their relative ability to visually display the maps in functional and beautiful ways. The ability to adjust colour, opacity, and symbols provide users of a platform with more flexibility in visual display. Additionally, if the mapping platform is able to categorize data and display choropleth maps or graduated symbols, contrast between different datasets can be accentuated.


MAPPING TOOLS MATRIX ASSESSMENT CASE STUDIES & ASSESSMENT


CATEGORIES

CRITERIA

Plot Points Draw Lines Draw Polygons Information Windows Embed Image Features Create Legend Geocode Spatial Analysis Address Search Basemap Options PDF or JPG (printing) Publishing Embed on Website URL Link of Map No GIS Skills Required No Coding Required Import SHP Usabilty Import XLS Import KML Multi-user Free Version Affordability Trial Version Discount option Opacity Colour Visualization Symbols Choropleth

M CartoDB x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

x x x x x

Cloud GIS x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Mango Maps

x x x x x

x x x x

x x x x x x x x x x x

x

Mapbox x x x x x x x x

QGIS x x x

x x x x x

x x

x x x

x x x

x x x x

x x x x x x

x N/A N/A x x x x

BatchGeo

x x x x x x x x x x x x

x

x x


MAPPING TOOLS QGIS x x x

x x x x x

x x x x x N/A N/A x x x x

BatchGeo

x x x x x x x x x x x x

x

x x

ArcGIS Online MapInfo Stratus Google EnginesOpen Green Map Open Plans x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x N/A x x N/A x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

StoryMap JS x

x x

uMap x x x x x x x

x

x x

x x x

x x x x

x N/A N/A

x x x N/A N/A x x


CENTRE FOR CITY ECOLOGY

Mapbox is an appealing mapping tool that has many features and a broad range of customization options in the basemap. It also allows users to plot points, lines, and polygons over the basemap in a simple way. However, this mapping tool was designed for programmers familiar with coding, and the mapping platform is run through an external coding software called TileMill. In order to import Shapefiles, customize information windows, and create legends, written codes in JavaScript must be input through TileMill. This limitation hinders users who are not familiar with Javascript from using this mapping tool effectively. OVERALL RATING : 3.8/5 FEATURES

4.5/5

PUBLISHING

4.5/5

USABILITY

1.5/5

AFFORDABILITY

4.0/5

VISUALIZATION

4.5/5

CASE STUDY Because of the requirement to understand JavaScript coding language, this tool was not tested by UTSC students.


MAPPING TOOLS

Mango Maps is an easy to use mapping tool that can create aesthetically beautiful maps. New layers are created by uploading map data, allowing each layer to be customized in appearance and style. It is easy to create legends coordinating with each map layer, which can be toggled on and off. However, one of the major restrictions of this tool is the inability to create new features directly in the tool. This prohibits users from plotting points or drawing lines and polygons, which would be useful when mapping subjective attributes. Once a finish map is produced, Mango Maps does provide a range of options for publishing, which is convenient for distributing and accessing the map. OVERALL RATING : 3.2/5 FEATURES

2.5/5

PUBLISHING

4.5/5

USABILITY

3.5/5

AFFORDABILITY

4.0/5

VISUALIZATION

4.5/5

CASE STUDY Since the students were limited to importing data, they found that information would have to be created in another software such as ArcGIS or already available through Open Data sources. And if files were not compatible, the geolocation of the map data would not be accurately displayed. This prevented the students from incorporating a narrative of KGO into the map.


CENTRE FOR CITY ECOLOGY

CartoDB is a visually appealing mapping tool that provides the ability to geocode addresses. Points of interest in the form of an address could be entered into an Excel file and saved in Google Drive or Dropbox to be synchronized with CartoDB. Additionally, CartoDB has the capability to do simple spatial analysis, such as measuring distances and calculating areas of polygons. Moreover, the tool is able to link images from an external URL in its information windows, which allows for greater depth of description. Unfortunately, this tool has a limited number of layers, which prevents users from illustrating more complicated maps that need many layers. The maximum number of layers the tool is able to accommodate is 10, which means that the mapping tool cannot illustrate more than 10 different attributes. OVERALL RATING : 3.4/5 FEATURES

4.0/5

PUBLISHING

3.0/5

USABILITY

3.5/5

AFFORDABILITY

2.0/5

VISUALIZATION

4.0/5

CASE STUDY The students had a difficult time visualizing their information on this mapping tool due to the layer restrictions. Because the students used a trial version, they were limited to 4 layers. To avoid this problem, different attributes can be compressed to represent one layer. This tool needed to be explored further to understand its full potential.


MAPPING TOOLS

GIS Cloud is an all-round complete mapping tool for the purposes of developing a community mapping toolkit. Users of this tool are able to perform simple spatial queries and analysis, toggle privacy settings, modify different features, create information windows, and import a variety of file formats. However, the downside of this tool is the inability to access maps created when the limit of the free trial has been reached. At that point, already created map can only be accessed once the premium package has been purchased, at a cost of $55/user/ month.

OVERALL RATING : 4.6/5 FEATURES

4.5/5

PUBLISHING

4.5/5

USABILITY

4.5/5

AFFORDABILITY

4.0/5

VISUALIZATION

5.0/5

CASE STUDY Two different groups were assigned GIS Cloud, and both discovered the full potential of the tool. One group used of a variety of features to illustrate the information they have found, while the other made good use of symbols to represent the data collected. The overall feedback on this mapping tool was positive, as the students found it easy to learn and use.


CENTRE FOR CITY ECOLOGY

QGIS, which has a similar interface as ArcGIS, has the potential to produce outstanding maps, but is very labour intensive and requires time to learn how the program could be used effectively. This is a free and open source GIS mapping tool that is oriented towards those who have a background knowledge of the program or are willing to learn it. This software must be downloaded and used on a single desktop, which limits the number of users that are able to work on a map at a given time. QGIS allows map data to be tailored in appearance and offers a range of edits and modifications to the map layers to display what is necessary, based on the user’s discretion. The maps that are produced are best displayed by printing or as an image, which limits the interactivity of the map once completed.

OVERALL RATING : 3.2/5 FEATURES

2.5/5

PUBLISHING

4.5/5

USABILITY

3.5/5

AFFORDABILITY

4.0/5

VISUALIZATION

4.5/5

CASE STUDY Students found that several tedious steps needed to be taken to create the visuals of the map, which suggests that this tool may not be user friendly enough for a community mapping exercise. However, this tool allows both of flexibility and accuracy in portraying data specific to the user’s area of focus.


MAPPING TOOLS

CONCLUSION The practice of mapping is an opportunity to visualize places and construct the ways spaces are perceived. The central focus of this research was oriented towards finding mapping tools that are feasible for community members to use for the purposes of documenting their conceptions and needs of their neighbourhood. Through this research, various mapping tools were examined and assessed based on their criteria of simplicity, userfriendliness, interactivity and affordability. Each mapping tool varies in functionality and usability which determines its capacity to produce strong maps. This report illustrates how the tools rank in comparison to one another according to their advantages and disadvantages. Based on the economic maps that the students produced, Mapbox and QGIS limited the usability of the mapping tools since it requires the knowledge of coding and ArcGIS. On the other hand, tools such as CartoDB and Mango Maps, although simple to use, their restrictions in the number of layers available and the ability to plot features hinders the amount of data that can be incorporated into the maps. Among the mapping tools tested by the students, GIS Cloud has proven to be the most user-friendly and interactive for the purposes of community mapping exercises. Overall the results of the case study indicated that if given more time with the mapping tools, the students would have been able to explore the features in greater depth and utilize the full potential of the tools.


A city ecosystem is composed of physical-economic-ethical processes active at a given time within a city and its close dependencies. [Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities]

Profile for Centre for City Ecology

Community Mapping: An assessment of available tools  

This report was prepared for the Centre for City Ecology by Jonella Evangelista and Nabila Prayitno, two University of Toronto Geography stu...

Community Mapping: An assessment of available tools  

This report was prepared for the Centre for City Ecology by Jonella Evangelista and Nabila Prayitno, two University of Toronto Geography stu...

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