Deep-pocketed political activists have no problem marshaling the resources to pull together sophisticated data analyses and compelling visuals, often leaving ordinary citizens and community organizations at a disadvantage when seeking the support of elected officials. Aaron Kreider, in an effort to put those less privileged voters on equal footing, spent the last year developing Justice Map, a data visualization tool that he hopes will offer a solution.
Kreider, a web developer with a background in sociology, launched the beta version of Justice Map earlier this summer. By layering Google Maps and U.S. Census data, he created millions of map "tiles" that users can analyze and annotate after searching for a location. For example, you could demonstrate that your city's poorer neighborhoods have less green space than their wealthy counterparts.
"Any social program that is tied to location can benefit from a tool like this," Kreider told Next City. Justice Map, he says, is the first citizen-friendly tool to show data on race and income at the level city blocks.
Look up your hometown, and you’ll see a color-coded snapshot neighborhoods by race and income, according to the categories and brackets defined by the census. In Manhattan, for example, a clear line at 96th Street divides the island’s wealthy and impoverished neighborhoods, with incomes dropping further as the city extends north into the Bronx. Mapping St. Louis and nearby Ferguson, Mo., where protests over the shooting of black teenager Mike Brown continue to simmer, starkly illustrates the "white flight" retreat to the suburbs.
Urban planners and social activists are interested in tools like Justice Map for their potential to stymie policy decisions and budget allocations that might favor wealthy voters. One group has even published a how-to guide, "Maps for Advocacy," designed to train organizations in the use of maps as a storytelling technique. "Much work done by advocacy organizations has some 'spatial' element to it and includes data that can, when approached creatively, be easier to explore and understand when mapped or displayed visually," the Tactical Tech Collective, publisher of the report, wrote in its introduction.
Kreider has been working on Justice Map for a year, supported by a $10,000 grant from the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for open government. Now he hopes to raise additional funding that would help him (and his computer) continue to develop the project. "There are something like 10 million individual blocks in the United States," he said. "I was running my computer through the night."
Try Justice Map for yourself here.
[h/t Next City]