The Digital Commons Cooperative Steps into the World of Mapping

In mid-May, Shared Assets Projects Officer Louis represented our growing venture, the Digital Commons Cooperative, at two geospatial events in London.

'How good does it feel to be back together in person!'. 

These are the introductory words I heard when representing Digital Commons Cooperative (a joint venture between Shared Assets and Solidarity Economy Association) at two consecutive mapping/Geospatial Data focused events a few weeks ago in London. They consisted of the ESRI UK Annual Conference focusing on GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and the GeoBusiness show, which showcased a range of businesses in the geospatial information sector. Both events looked at the importance of Geospatial data and how we continue to use it in the present and future. 

Simply put, GIS is a system that visually maps and analyses data and transfers traditional tabletop maps into digital maps. We’re all familiar with the practical uses of GIS: it is used by the mapping apps we have on our phones and tablets. 

The ESRI UK conference focussed on ESRI's premier GIS product ArcGIS. There were a variety of talks on the different uses of GIS, from flood risk analysis to global mapping of local community assets. 

The Geo business show played host to several businesses who are trying to unlock the potential of geospatial data, information that describes events or objects on the Earth's surface that can be represented by GIS. 

Digital Commons Cooperative software

How does this relate to Digital Commons Cooperative?

The Digital Commons Cooperative is currently an umbrella platform for Shared Assets' mapping platform Land Explorer (a platform to help people discover the land around them); as well as Solidarity Economy Association's SEA Map (a tool which focuses on solidarity economy organisations and supports community-led mapping projects and membership organisations). Alongside these platforms, Digital Commons advocates for better data standards in a 'commons' economy. 

Attending these events presented an opportunity to understand the role Digital Commons will play in the vast and almost infinite world of geospatial data and mapping. For example, as part of the growing life of Digital Commons, we have led “introduction to GIS” sessions that aim to inform and dispel difficulties faced when understanding the intricacies of geospatial data and mapping. At Digital Commons Cooperative, we are aware of the power cooperatives and their members have. By being in the same rooms alongside behemoths of the geospatial world, Digital Commons can be the antithesis of the behemoths; allowing conversations where fairer data standards exist and users feel a meaningful connection to the data they interact with. 

What's next for mapping?

Something that felt refreshing at these events was the important conversations about representation. From the number of women who commanded talks and demonstrations, to ESRI UK's geospatial fund scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate students of Black and Mixed-Black heritage going to study geography-related degrees at university. As a sector responsible for informing, sharing and visualising data to do with the many systems occurring around the world, it feels promising to be an organisation that can be a part of enacting that change. Over time, Digital Commons wishes to be a leader in a more connected and diverse world of mapping and data, allowing social movements to address the inequalities of society and create a more regenerative future. 

Follow the Digital Commons Cooperative on Twitter to keep up to date with their launch.

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