Crisis Mapping

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The evolution of the field described by Patrick Philippe Meier at


Patrick Philippe Meier:

"Crisis Mapping can be described as combining the following 3 components: information collection, visualization and analysis. Of course, all these elements are within the context of a dynamic, interactive map. So I typically use the following taxonomy:

  1. Crisis Map Sourcing
  2. Crisis Map Visualization
  3. Crisis Map Analysis

On Crisis Map Sourcing, there are multiple methodologies and technologies that one can use for information collection. These range from the traditional paper-based survey approaches and Walking-Papers to crowdsourcing reports via SMS and automatically parsing social media data on the web. Visualization is about rendering the information collected on a dynamic, interactive map in such a way that the rendering provides maximum insight on the data collected and any potential visual patterns. This is of course nothing new to the field of cartography and geographic information systems. What is perhaps new is that the technologies used for the visualization are free or open source or both, and that they don’t require much in the way of prior training. Some have referred to this as neogeography.

Crisis Map Analysis is also nothing new and simply entails the application of statistical techniques to spatial data for pattern or “signature” detection. What is perhaps novel is that the analysis is now happening more and more on the fly, i.e., in real-time. The point of doing this kind of analysis is to provide in-the-moment decision-support to users of a given Crisis Mapping platform. Thus the interface of said platforms should allow users to easily query the map and test out different scenarios to identify the best course of action given a changing or evolving environment. Ideally, a Crisis Mapping platform should also allow you to assess the impact of your actions." (

Status 2010

Patrick Philippe Meier:

"I’d say the increasing use of free and open source crisis mapping software, for one. There has also been a lot more interest in the use of social media and up-to-date satellite imagery as a source of information. The same goes with using crowdsourcing to collect crisis information. The rise of online volunteers engaged in crisis mapping is another new and important development which holds much potential. This is particularly true as formal humanitarian organizations are now taking important steps to interface with these volunteer communities.

Perhaps what I am most excited about is the recent use of Crisis Mapping not just to identify problems but also existing solutions; the idea is to combine crowdsourcing with crowdfeeding to create a crowdsourcing “market place” that matches needs with resources. The basic idea is to help other help themselves. Professional disaster responders may not always be there to help but the crowd is always there. To learn more about this approach, please see this blog post.

One interesting impact of Crisis Mapping that hadn’t occurred to me two years ago is the social connectivity aspect. What do I mean by that? Simply this: the value of Crisis Mapping may at times have less to do with the actual map and more with the conversations and new collaborative networks catalyzed by launching a Crisis Mapping project. Indeed, this in part explains why the Standby Volunteer Task Force exists in the first place. So Collaborative Crisis Mapping can generate both weak and strong-ties." (

More Information

  1. Mobile Crisis Mapping
  2. Crisis Mapping Analytics