Talk: Contributor Engagement in Humanitarian Mapping

Activities and mapping parties around the world by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) are important catalysts for volunteer engagement in humanitarian mapping. However there are technical barriers to entry: mapping is a complex practice, it requires specialist tools and an understanding of specialist concepts. To address this, HOT mapping parties typically provide technical instructions, a safe space where beginners can make early mistakes, and easy access to expert guidance. How well does this work? In this talk I compared the outputs of a range of different humanitarian mapping projects published on the HOT tasking manager, and present early results of a large-scale quantitative study. This entailed an analysis of all volunteer contributions to determine the impact of HOT projects on the map. A key aspect was an assessment of their short-term engagement: how long do people stick around? Do newcomers drop out more quickly than expert mappers?

As part of the HOT Summit, on Saturday 2nd May 2015, at the American Red Cross in Washington/DC. (Slides)

Panel: Academic Partnerships with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

There is tremendous research interest in OpenStreetMap currently. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is an important focus of this interest and there is an opportunity to engage with academic researchers to help ensure that scholarship benefits our community and the people around the world we seek to assist through our work. This session was a community conversation around the ways in which the HOT community could enable productive and healthy relationships with scholarly research into our work. Topics for discussion included research ethics, opportunities for documenting HOT's efforts, and the kinds of questions that the HOT community would see benefit from having academic investigation into. The panel was coordinated by Robert Soden and included Mikel Maron, Martin Dittus, and contributions by other members of the HOT community.

As part of the HOT Summit, on Friday 1st May 2015, at the American Red Cross in Washington/DC. (Slides)

Talk: Innovation Week Rome: Social Innovation Cities

Speaking on the topic of community knowledge: data and information collected by community groups in order to improve their collective understanding of particular social, urban, and environmental systems. Open data in urban spaces, large-scale collaboration, community monitoring, community knowledge. During this event 300 people, 30 facilitators, and 10 international speakers are working to co-create the ecosystem of the Social Innovation City: the future-proof city. Participants will be asked to identify the key elements for the development of an ecosystem for social impact innovations in a metropolitan city. The results of the co-design process will be presented to the representatives of invited European and Italian institutions.

As part of Innovation Week Rome, on Wednesday 1st October 2014, at MAXXI Rome. (Slides)

Panel: UCL Engineering Thinking Symposium: Engineering and Communities

Engineering is mostly associated with large industrial, corporate or military organisations, yet it has vast impacts on local communities and it also has the potential to contribute directly to community development, problem solving and social justice. This panel explored practical and ethical issues surrounding direct engagement between engineers and communities through the use and development of technologies, public engagement with engineering research and making technical knowledge more accessible.

As part of the UCL Engineering Thinking Symposium on Friday 4th July 2014, at University College London.

Workshop: London Bubble: Making is Connecting

A public discussion and workshop that aimed to investigate how the London Bubble Theatre in Rotherhithe can expand its community activities, with a focus on the creation of a makerspace for the local community. Among the participants were representatives of the local community, community facilitators, and advisors with experience in shared spaces and community workshop organisations.

As part of the Creativity and Wellbeing Week on Friday 6th June 2014, at the London Bubble Theatre in Rotherhithe.

Panel: R-Urban Wick: Open Workshops

New workshop spaces are emerging across London which facilitate making by providing an affordable workspace and easy access to tools and equipment. Invited guest speakers will provide a behind the scenes look at how these initiatives function and sustain themselves. Together with Umi Baden-Powell and representatives of the London Hackspace, Black Horse workshop, Rara Clapton, Swan Wharf in Hackney Wick, Create Space London in Wembley.

As part of the Wick Sessions event series, on Friday 28 March 2014, at Swan Wharf in Hackney Wick. (Slides)

Talk: DIY sensor networks: community-driven environmental monitoring

New community-driven environmental monitoring platforms reveal a nascent potential to capture many of the earths’s urban and environmental systems at unprecedented levels of detail at very low cost. Tomas Diez and Martin Dittus are practitioners and researchers in this domain, they will share their past experiences with communal DIY sensing methods and offer a preview of what lies ahead.

As part of the Citizen Cyberscience Summit 2014 on Friday 21 February 2014, at the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, University College London. (Slides)

Talk: Urban data work: a practitioner’s perspective

Showing a selection of my data visualisation and data analysis work in the context of urban spaces, including work by colleagues at the ICRI Cities. Offering a few opinions on technology-based solutions to social problems, the surprising challenge of identifying important problems, and some suggestions on how best to start looking for them.

As part of Urban Data Hack on Sat 15 February 2014, at Hub Westminster, London. (Slides)

Panel: Transparent Design: what does it mean?

"What are the ethics and politics of transparency, and is this is being adequately factored into design practice?" Together with Jessi Baker, Alison Powell, Gillian Youngs, and Kevin Walker.

At the V&A on Friday 10 January 2014, as part of the Design Culture Salon event series. (Slides)

Panel: Educations in Practice

Showcasing emerging approaches to learning and knowledge production across young London-based creative practices. Together with Lawrence Lek, Tom Harrad, Jonathan Hoskins, Eva Rowson, Lisa Skuret, Tommy Ting, Susannah E Haslam, and Lucy Britton.

At Parasol unit on Saturday 28 September 2013, organised by Journey/School.

Panel and exhibition: Piracy Today

Is piracy a destructive force or a necessary ingredient in cultural transmission? Together with Rachel Falconer, Geraldine Juarez, Lawrence Lek, Stuart Bannocks, Ami Clarke, and Daniel Rourke.

At Penthouse 4C on Wednesday 28 August 2013, organised by Hardcore Software.

Event: Hack the Barbican

An interdisciplinary playground of art, technology, and entrepreneurship in the public spaces of London's Barbican Centre, community-organised and on a tiny budget. Think of it as a slowly growing city, with many imperfections but also many moments of unexpected magic. Involved as organiser and facilitator.

Open daily throughout August 2013 in the Barbican's public spaces. (Website, Twitter, interview.)

Panel: The Politics of Making

Can maker culture be understood as political act, as resistance against late capitalism? Together with Eva Verhoeven, Cory Doctorow, Sarah Corbet, and Nelly Trakidou.

At the V&A on Sunday 7 July 2013, as part of the Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire in London. (Slides, video.)

Panel: Digital Technologies and Knowledge Production

An event celebrating creative education that is 'free as air and water', with Susannah E Haslam, Lucy A. Sames, and Lawrence Lek.

At the White Building on Sunday 30 June 2013, as part of Public Assembly in London.

Talk: Creative Community Spaces

About the London Hackspace, the Electromagnetic Field camping festival, and Hack the Barbican as community-created spaces.

At Bartlett Nexus 6: Uncharted in May 2013. (Slides, video.)

Talk: Communal Sensor Networks

A review of global DIY environmental monitoring activities.

At EMF 2012 in August 2012. (Slides forthcoming, unfortunately there is no video available.)

Dissertation: The Cosm Sensor Data Set

The first assessment of a large volume of volunteer sensor data published on Cosm, an online platform for sensor data enthusiasts. This is highly heterogenous, geo-referenced, and tagged time series data, encompassing a large variety of observed phenomena, and its existence reveals a new potential to capture many of the earths's urban and environmental systems at unprecedented levels of detail.

At the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL in August 2012. (PDF)

Paper: Collective Sensor Networks

The sensor commons: structures, outcomes, promises and shortcomings of some exemplary communal radiation monitoring projects.

At the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL in March 2012. (PDF)

Project: Heatmap Calendars

A series of visualisations of the individual music listening activity of selected users. In total it encompasses 8.7 million scrobbles across ~180 graphs.

In September 2011. (Blog post.)

Project: Music Feeds

Pop culture snippets, opinionated commentary, and lots and lots of noise.

In July 2009. (Blog post, I've since taken the project offline.)

Project: Pool Radio

A random selection of hopefully interesting radio stations, aggregated from user tag feeds, group forums, global tag charts, etc.

In May 2008. (Blog post.)

You can find slides of select previous talks at, and further data visualisation work at

See Also