Impact mapping

Jessi, of the illustrious Internet Course crew, suggested that we cover the impacts of the internet through a Google map. It seems counterintuitive to me – I think of the internet as the cloud, the ether, so geolocating its impacts would never have occurred to me. But people are what is impacted, and people exist in places, so it’s certainly doable.

Since Howard Gardner brought up Craig Newmark the other week, I’ve been thinking about Craigslist. I didn’t know that it came out of the hippie commune culture (sort of – it seems like Craig was a latecomer to that scene in the mid-90s), but it totally makes sense. Craigslist was one part of the internet that had a huge impact on the newspaper industry. It had been in long-term decline anyway, due to television, cable, direct mail, radio, web,… but Craigslist could be seen as dealing a deathblow. Classified advertising had been a goldmine for newspapers, and Craig started giving it away for free. Seven years ago or so, when I was still working in the printing industry, there were t-shirts going around the Newspaper Association of America conference that said “Can’t we just kill Craig?” because he was seen as taking away their jobs. I wouldn’t paint him as the bad guy – if he didn’t do it, someone else would have – but I can see why they weren’t too happy with him.

So how would I map this out? If I were mapping the economic impacts of the internet, I could mark Craigslist HQ and attach some info to it, like so:

I linked some information and images to the marker, without trying too hard. For the map to be meaningful, I’d have to add more data points. It’s possible to share maps with co-editors, so everyone could work on the same map, maybe color coding the markers according to type of impact. The Spreadsheet Mapper that Ryan Brazell wrote about probably offers more control. I just wanted to experiment directly in Google Maps.

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