Micro Introduction to Crisis Mapping

Crisis Mapping

Crisis mapping is a relatively new field—there’s not much research, no journal, and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and the Department of Political Science at John Carroll University (JCU) jointly hosted the first International Conference on Crisis Mapping only in October 2009. So this is a NEW field of study and practice, but there is a thriving group of practitioners with Patrick Meier (one of the developers of Ushahidi) being one of the leading members.

Since I’m working on organizing a conference proceedings for ICT & Human Rights, it seemed necessary to define a few terms in this subject area filled with TLA (three letter acronyms). There are some important terms that are being developed to help parse the field and make sense of the different aspects of the problem. Here’s a breakdown:

Crisis Mapping can be divided into three main components:

  1. Crisis Map Sourcing (CMS)—this is all about data point collection
    • Crisis Map Coding (CMC)—refers to entering the data points by hand, based on analysis of news, police reports, blogs, and so on, but the person entering the data is a professional
    • Participatory Crisis Mapping (PCM)—refers to data points entered by the population in crisis, requires people on the ground
    • Mobile Crisis Mapping (MCM)—refers to the use of hand-held mobile devices to enter data points (e.g.: cell phones, portable computers, PDAs, real-time satellite and drone imagery, etc.)
    • Automated Crisis Mapping (ACM)—refers to the use of computer programs/algorithms to extract relevant data points from “the virtual cloud”

    Clearly, ACM is very hard and remains the domain of hard-core computer scientists at the moment, looking for things like natural language processing (in multiple languages). Ushahidi provides for Mobile use of technology as well, but doesn’t deal with military technology such as drone and satellite imagery.

  2. Crisis Mapping Analysis (CMA)—this is all about taking the data points and displaying them in a map-like structure
    • Crisis Mapping Visualization (CMV)—refers to visual data representation using maps as the basis
    • Crisis Mapping Analytics (CMA)—refers to analysis of data points using software to detect hidden patterns and statistical analysis
    • Crisis Mapping Modeling (CMM)—refers to creating simulations using the data points as variables (think climate models)
  3. Crisis Mapping Response (CMR)—this is all about generating action based on the data points collected and represented in the crisis maps
    • Crisis Map Dissemination (CMD)—refers to dissemination of information to the relevant organizations who can actually provide services on the ground
    • Crisis Map Decision Support (CMDS)—refers to the creation of rules and triggers based on the data points: a certain threshold is set on events that, once reached, trigger a particular action (think pandemic)
    • Crisis Map Monitoring and Evaluation (CMME)—refers to the research that can be conducted using the maps and data points over time


iRevolution, (August 8, 2009). “Proposing the Field of Crisis Mapping.” http://irevolution.wordpress.com/2009/08/08/proposing-crisis-mapping/



NECN News Coverage of Tufts Students CrisisMapping of Haiti Post the 2010 Earthquake

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