December 21, 2012 – No! The world did not come to an apocalyptic end this day. Instead, it marked the beginning of a new venture by the students of Southwestern State College (SWSC) (http://www.southwestern.edu.np/).
Twenty four students attended this Beginners’ Mapping Party. New to OSM and new to mapping, they came in with excitement, curiosity, and a tinge of nervousness. But the introductory presentation got them going on their first encounter with the OSM–what it is, how it is done, and why it is done at all. At the end of the introductory presentation, we could sense that they were clearer on the Mapping Party goals, their excitement and curiosity raised, and their nervousness disappeared to some extent.
Then came the fieldwork. Armed with walking papers, smart phones, and handheld GPS devices, students were assisted by seven trainers from OSMNepal to map the areas around South Western State College. The fieldwork, as put by one of the students, was in a word ‘fun’.
New Mappers on their maiden mapping venture
Each group had their own ‘special’ moments. During the trip, one of the groups got ‘lost’ because their walking paper had a map that had roads where there shouldn’t have been and had no roads where there should have been (duh!) and yet another group strived to find their own whereabouts because their field paper was a completely empty map! But it did not discourage them. On the contrary, as one of the group members later put it, “It made us ever more determined to map more rigorously because we don’t want any other person to go through the same troubles we did.” Another group took their time to pause and reflect on their first mapping experiences while they were still on the field. They decided to do so over a much welcome (and made-on-the-fly) on-field tea break. Another group still was lucky enough to have a birthday girl in their group. This group, perhaps much to the jealousy of other groups, managed to celebrate their own little birthday party while they still mapped – Told you mapping party is fun! 😉 After the fieldwork, our new mappers tried their hands at JOSM for the first time. It was their first attempt to actually contribute to the global OSM community. Despite certain practical difficulties such as Wi-Fi speed, most of them managed to map and upload data.
Trying Awesome JOSM
We concluded the mapping party by hearing from our new mappers – their experiences and expectations. We discussed on some major topics like why contribute to OSM at all – to which, we got responses of all sorts. “When I contribute to OSM, I am actually expanding my own knowledge of the locality. So when I help others, actually I am helping myself,” said one. Another said, “This is a form of digital social service. When I make a contribution, it not only benefits me but the entire community.” From personal satisfaction to purely altruistic reasons, these new mappers had their own reasons to map. And map, we did. During the two hours of editing, we added numerous nodes, traced areas from Narayan Gopal Chowk to Samakhushi Chowk, and changed the face of the OSM map from consisting of mere roads to a map rich with POIs on either side of the Ring Road. And that is how we ended the day’s event. But did we? We wouldn’t say that we ended anything that day. The only thing (if any) that might have come to an end on that particular day could be the world’s belief in Mayan prophecies. As for our community, Dec 21 did not mark the end of the Mapping Party. We had just begun.
Yeah! We are the mappers!