Emily Jacboi Keynote – Transcription

Kevin: Good morning, how is everyone doing today? I heard one great, one person is doing great. Thank you. How is everyone else doing?

Audience: Woo!

Thank you.

Audience: Woo!

Okay, above average. Who enjoyed the presentations and activities? I was blown away by the presentations, they were awesome, and the energy and activity, I feel very tired today. But thank you for everyone’s participation. I have a couple, or just one administrative note. The tradition is to do a group photo, we are doing it every year, and we do it today.

And at the same time, we are doing a satellite selfie from space. We talked about this yesterday, some people didn’t believe me, we are actually doing this. I was joking yesterday, this is not a joke. We did it in Seattle last year and in New York the year before, so three years in a row. We need the weather to cooperate. We will have both the group photo, and the satellite selfie out on the terrace, which we were on for the reception last night, where Birds of a Feather is. So everyone will have to file through, it will show where the Birds Of the Feather are on the signs, and you will meet on the terrace.

And this is what happens with the satellite.

So, I work for Digital Globe. I was able to call in a favor. World View Three, one of the coolest satellites in space, is going to be over the Utah/Colorado border, going at 17,000 miles an hour, and it is going to be coming this way, towards Grand Junction –


Yes, Grand Junction in the house! It is going to be over there, and at exactly 12:00, 1238, 35.3 seconds, the camera will turn on, and 3.3 seconds later, the camera will turn off. I cannot slow the satellite down. If we are not out there, I cannot ask for a re-do. So we have one chance to get out there.

All right.

So, we kind of – and I will take the blame for this, I didn’t get these exact times until yesterday. We are looking at the schedule this morning. The second session is scheduled at 11:40, just kidding, the new schedule is at 11:10. We will try to update the website. And we have a lot of extra time this morning, we were supposed to do coffee at 11:10, coffee will start at 10:50, and the new schedule will start at 11:10AM, we have to to do that to finish at 12:10PM, so we have 18 minutes to safely and cautiously get 400 or 500 people out on the terrace.

Is everyone cool with that?


All right, that’s it!

So thank you, and again, apologies for the last-second change, and I’m going to turn it over to Kate who will say hi, and introduce our incredible keynote speaker.

Kate: Morning, everyone. I was trying to remember when Emily and I met, I’m not sure it involved crisis mapping, it was a while ago. But I always admired and followed and just – I have been in awe of her work as executive director of Digital Democracy, and I’m so grateful she can come and share with us. I will not go more into that, she has an amazing story to tell, you can read her bio in the program if you want more detail, and I think you should. Emily, come join me. Thank you so much for being here today.


Emily Jacobi: It is not every day that you are introduced by your – (speaker far from mic).

So, thank you Kate, and it is exciting to be here, to be with you, the OSM community, and also to have – this is definitely the best view and the best conference I have ever attended.

So, well done.

I want to begin with – (speaker far from mic) – and I want to know a little bit more about you.

So just to get us started and maybe to wake us up a little bit, and maybe a little bit of movement, raise your hand if you are a map maker.

All right, most of us.


And raise your hand if you identify as a technologist.

All right.

A software developer?




What about those of you who work in public planning?

All right.

How many of you work for the private sector?


What about for some level of government, the public sector? What about those of you, like me, who work for non profits?

Okay. Awesome.

How many of you work on satellites?


How many of you work with paper maps as well?


Okay, so a little bit about where you come from. And I’m actually going to have you stand up, just to further get the energy going in the room.

How many of you – yeah.

Thank you, you’re on it.

How many of you live here in Boulder?

Stand up!

All right! Yay! The hometown crowd!


How many of you live elsewhere in Colorado?


All right!

How many of you traveled from somewhere in the western part of the United States, west of the Mississippi river?


And what about those of you who live in the eastern part of the United States, so the eastern Mississippi river? New York, in particular, wants you to know that they are represented.


Surprise, surprise.


How many of you live outside of the United States? Okay, shout out some of the places where you are from.

Audience: Tokyo! London!

Emily Jacobi: I heard British Columbia, Scotland, Italy – great! I know there’s a global State of the Map, but it is great to have some global representation in the U.S.

And stand up and cheer if you love maps.


All right, so we all have something in common. That’s great, I also love maps.

And I have to warn you, when I was invited to speak here, I was planning to talk about Digital Democracy and what we are doing and the amazing map making that our partners are doing primarily in the Amazon rain forest, indigenous communities, to map illegal threats, like mining, logging, and oil pollution.

That’s what I was planning to talk about. But then, something happened.

So, I live in Oakland, California, and it is actually not labeled on this map. It is south of Berkley, for those of you who don’t know it. Over the past two years, we’ve had devastates fires throughout northern California. And even when I lived in the urban center, I was affected by this fire. You can hear it in my voice.

The pollution from smoke, and not just from trees, from houses, chemicals, from burnt automobiles, filtered into the Bay Area and we have really horrible air pollution, similar to Beijing, I told. I was wearing an air mask, but it did not stop me from losing my voice. I lost my voice, but many people lost their lives and their houses.

I cannot begin to imagine how wildlife and animals have been affected. And while I was sick and delirious with a fever and wondering about how I would show up and speak to you all, I was not just thinking about the work that we are doing, but in Puerto Rico, I was thinking about the fact that people are still without power from the hurricanes. I was reading about the revolutions from mostly women and men, from sexual assault, and the public conversation that is coming out. I was reading the news about the border wall with Mexico, and increasing animosity towards immigrants in this country.

And the thing is, this moment feels really urgent to me. I’m curious if that feels that way to any of you. You can raise your hand, or holler out if it does.

There are many of you for whom this moment feels urgent. I think it should feel urgent, the climate is changing and we are already feeling the impacts. Global inequality is rising, and places like San Francisco, to the Bay Area where I live, you have extreme inequality. And I find the affect of walking down the street in down town San Francisco, where you have corporate buildings, so much money, and you have homeless people in the street suffering, I find that to be a really painful process. And I, as an individual, don’t actually know how to change the lives for the better for the people who live on the streets, and we as a society have agreed to accept that. And I don’t think that is acceptable.

So we are at an urgent moment. I will still talk about Digital Democracy, and our partners, but also the broading mapping community that we are a part of here at State of the Map, and I want to go back a little bit historically and talk about how maps helped make the world that we live in now, and talk about, at the present moment, how the maps that we’re making affect the world that we live in today and tomorrow.

So, more precisely, what kind of world are we making with our maps? And are we making maps like the future depends on it? Because I believe that it does.

So, I will begin with the bad stuff to get it out of the way. To state it simply and clearly, because I don’t believe it is stated often enough, maps has been used as a tool to enable slavery, genocide, and massive threats of land. While this may seem like the past, it still impacts the world that we live in today.

This is really cheerful morning stuff.


So, let’s begin exploring how we got here.

This is a map of the Americas in 1606.

I grew up seeing maps like this – so at first, it doesn’t seem too crazy. It is kind of exciting, there are monsters in the ocean.


But, over time, as I started to learn more about the world and how it was made, there is actually something that is really crazy about this map to me, and it is not the sea monsters. It is the fact that this was – we live in a hemisphere that is peopleed by incredible civilizations, more than 800 nations and tribes estimated in North America alone, that had complex religions, cultures, societal rules, that were all living together in this land.

And yet, this map, says things like New France, and Brazil, which is territory of Portugal.

And so this map was made by Europeans, and it is based on European world view, and a little over 100 years after Columbus landed in the Caribbean, it is a world that is void of the native people, or subjugating them in the lower left corner, rather than reflecting the world it was.

So the names are given to the people who conquer the areas and not those who live there before.

Why is that? I’m curious, how many of you have heard of the doctrine of discovery? Raise your hands really high, I want to see you, if you have heard of the Doctrine of Discovery.

Three people? Four.

All right. Thank you.

That’s really normal. I only heard about it a couple years ago, it was at an indigenous workshop in South Dakota. But I think it helps explain a lot.

So the Doctrine of Discovery is the name that has been applied to a series of scripts written by popes in the 15th century. They claim the concept of nobody’s land.

And that enabled European discoverers to invade non-Christian territory. It is a principle that has continued to be used in law regarding land rights to this day to describe territory that can be acquired through occupation. It is a legal framework that frames the basis for everything about the world around us, at least in the United States anyway.

So, again, the really heavy stuff first, and then we will move on.

But in 1493, sorry, in 1452, Pope Nicholas the V made the first law that was part of the doctrine of discovery. At that time, the Portuguese sailors were sailing around the coast of Africa. And he wrote into law that they should capture and sub due all pagans and enemies of Christ, put them into slavery, and take away their property.

This was edified in 1493, when Pope Alexander VI told the Spanish crown, after landing in the Caribbean, that we, by authority of God, give to you forever all islands and mainlands found, to be found, discovered, and to be discovered, towards the west and south, from the Arctic Pole, to the Antarctic Pole, and we appoint you and your hairs Lords of them with full authority and jurisdiction of every kind.

I think the audacity of that statement is beyond me, to determine that the crown of Spain should be able to go and everything that has been discovered, or to be discovered, should come unto their rule. And yet, this is the guideline that has – this is the beginning of what guided the entire European conquests of the Americas. This doctrine has never been annuled, although there were attempts in recent decades, cited in recent law and up held by the Supreme Court, most likely in 2005, to justify taking of native lands in the United States and ensuring that settlers can have them.

So what does this have to do with maps? Well, kind of everything.

So let’s compare Colorado, by the 1870s, congress decided to stop recognizing indigenous nations as tribes, as independent tribes, and as independent nations with whom treaties could be signed. At that time, the United States had signed and broken nearly 400 treaties. Colorado became a state in 1886, this map is from 1887. What this map from over a hundred years ago reflects is that, by that time, the Europeans had already come and turned Colorado into a state of their making. There are some remnants of it.

So before I travel, I like to know who are the indigenous people, and it took me a while to figure it out for Boulder. It is not on the Wikipedia page for Boulder, I had to search. But you might recognize the name, there are street and area names and even a national forest. So the Iraquaho people were native to this area of Colorado and displaced by the settlers who came in, they are displaced to two small reservations and so on. And this map does not look too different from Colorado today. The basic lines are still the same. And the maps that we are using that we build off of are still building this legacy.

And here is another example, this is a map of Mexico in 1887, you might notice the place where I live was part of Mexico at the time, in northern California.

Here, we have today, the proposed border, and this is an infographic from Al-Gazeera. That border cuts across native peoples who were native here before Mexico, as a nation state, before the United States existed. And so, when we talk actually about immigration and about preventing illegal aliens from crossing the border, we talk about people who, by ancestry and birthright, are more native here than the people who descended from Europeans. And this is just a picture of how that plays out in the real world, with the border that crosses people who were here much longer before.

Okay, so that’s the really depressing part of my presentation. I feel like if we don’t understand where these invisible rules come from, we can’t change them, and we can’t make it better.

So I’m here today because I actually see a lot of signs of hope and opportunities for de-colonizing the way we make maps. And I’m going to actually, before I talk about some of our partners and the amazing work they’re doing, I want to show some examples of projects that people in this room may be familiar with.

So one problem that I love is Mapcubera, and they way say take an area, looking at Miguel, looking at area – Caberez, many of you may know, the largest slum in Kenya, was not there, and they worked with people in OpenStreetMap and it was a vibrant community and service, and now it is more than just a map, it is an information hub.

I know that you are familiar with the humanitarian work of the OpenStreetMap team. And what I love is that it is not just a bunch of, it is not only people from places like the United States, you know, volunteering to help people in those places, there is a real investment in training people on the ground. I was in Haiti following the earthquake there, and I saw how the hot team was building up a core of Haitian mappers, the people that are experts on their territory, helping train them. They are still working to this day, this is a recent post about recent disasters and the way they are activating people.

There is another project, logging roads, build by the Malawi team. And that is a little bit of a play on words, the tool allows people to log literal roads that are big built, and these are roads that are built for logging. And as I worked from working in the Amazon, roads are the primary driver correlation of deforestation in rain forest areas. So where roads are built, deforestation. So they mapped tens of thousands of roads, it is an important step in making this issue more visible.

I also want to share some stories from one of my new favorite websites, the decolonialatlas. We share this on the Digital Democracy Slack channel thread, I was introduced to this on a partner on our projects.

There are two types of maps represented in this photo. The paper printed one, you all probably can recognize. But the pieces of wood are carvings of the coastline of green lands. And what I love about these maps are, they are buoyant. So they can float in the water. If you drop them, you can pick them up again. You can actually read them in the dark, because you can touch them and feel them. And they are representations of the coast lines. So the piece of wood on the left represents the peninsula. As you can see, the piece of wood on the middle correlates the islands and days, and it is a map that you can turn around. And on the far right, it represents different islands.

So the sailors, the people who use these while sailing, maybe you can recognize this where this is. Call it out.

It is The Great Lakes, good job. If you take a moment to recognize that, the reason is that this map was built off of bay place names, and also world view. And, like many indigenous cultures, rather than orienting towards the north, like we do in our maps, they orient towards the east, so where the sun rises. So this sea map that both turns east to the top of the map, but also has all of the indigenous names, rather than the colonized names for the great lakes. And you might actually recognize where some of our place names come from.

So Milwaukee, Ottawa – Doquatacan is nothing like Fort Wayne, but Fort Wayne also means buzz cut hair in indigenous language is fantastic. You can see where Chicago came from, the place name is much longer, and it is great that the original name for Chicago is place abundant with grass.

So those are some examples of the ways in which different types of mapping can happen.

I’m going to tell specifically the story of some of our partners who live in Ecuador. So the Morani people are an indigenous people and have maintained their lifestyle, religion, and world view despite hundreds of years of conquistadors coming and plantations coming, and evangelicals and missionaries coming to their territory.

And this is to orient us, this is where they live, when you see South America, Ecuador in northwest. And you see a pretty large, sizable chunk of Ecuador and the Amazon that is recognized as theirs. But with the doctrine of discovery and how that has played into laws all over the world, they do not have the mineral rights to the oil and the other things under their land. So they have rights to their land, but not under it. That creates a contradiction, how do you control it if somebody has the rights to what is under it.

This is a typical government map. What you see is a lot of green, and that means that there is forest and not many people are there except for you see the dots and villages. That’s the problem with the Mirani we are facing. The government has made their territory available for oil blocks. They already have some oil drilling in the eastern part, you can see the red growth that extends over there, along an oil pipeline.

But, for the most part, they do have virgin rainforest that they have lived in from time immemorial.

And they came to us with another group that is a core partner, it is a group of four different indigenous nationalities, as well as our other partners, Amazon frontlines, it is a group of allies to work in solidarity with the indigenous groups in the Amazon and Ecuador. They said, we have seen the devastating impacts of oil on our eastern territory and how indigenous brothers and sisters from other communities are devastated from oil. We want to continue our way of life and we need to prevent new oil drilling from coming into our territory. So, can you help us create a map?

So they began, like they always do with participatory mapping with sheets and markers. Everyone is involved in the process: Women, children, elders, men. And sometimes, they actually needed a lot of paper.

This is a community, Acarho, that is quite small. There are only eight adults living in the community, but they needed 8 pieces of butcher block paper because they had so much information about the rivers, hunting paths, and where they go, that they needed this much – even though it only took up actually this much area of the land. So they know their territory in a way that I can only imagine.

So after the paper mapping process to identify what is the most important for us to document, they then go around with GPS and take data. Right now, they are using little booklets. We are working on a mobile data collection app to use in the future.

And they go out, they take their points, collect testimony and stories.

So far, as multiple villages have been mapped, they came up with a lexicon for what it is they want to map. And this is just a small set of the icons that they created. So they designed these, you know, hand-drawn, and they work with the designer to actually create digital versions of these.

And here is another, this is zooming out, some more of the icons. And I think, overall, they have more than 250. So a huge amount of plants, animals, and cultural practices and human sites that they represent.

And they have also been mapping areas. So this is one of the first communities that was mapped, Numenpare, and this is zooming in on a much bigger map. But the village itself is quite small. But it is the surrounding area.

And, through this, they have accomplished what they told us was one of their original goals, which is that they wanted to create a map full of things that were priceless, because that is the only way they saw to actually have a chance to halt the government coming in and giving their land to the oil companies.

When maps showed that the territories are empty, it is easy for the government to sell it off. When the maps show that it is full of things and rich knowledge, and there is no place that is not disturbed by oil drilling, it starts to change the equation. So the mapping process is cool, and after multiple months of collecting data and revising the maps, there are finished products that each village gets. As you can see, they have a large map on the wall, and each household gets to take home a map.

And this is the leader of one of the communities, his name is Diqa, and he told us, “The map will speak to the world and show the life we want to protect and others have to protect. We can show the map to the neighbors. This is a story that I can show to my grandchildren. Through this, they will know the work I have done.”

This is another quote, Prima, who was a child when the missionaries first came and first had contact with the outside world.

And he told us, “I remember being a child in the summer institute of linguistics. Evangelists and other people over the past 40 years have talked to us about maps, but they are from the outside, other people’s ideas about our territory. But I walked for two months to make this map. And when we are in meetings with the government ministries, and they show us maps of our land and our communities, I can take out our map and show them how it really is.”

So something really exciting has come out of this partnership with Arwani and many of the other partners that we worked with over the years, and whether or not you knew it, through all of you here in the OpenStreetMap community.

And that is that we built a tool called Mapeo, or the longer version is called how OpenStreetMap was adapted for communities where there are no roads.

You may have heard of Mapeo, I will tell you the origin story. This is a community in Mexico. I went there in 2012 with Skyler Erl, yeah!

And they asked us to come down and do media and mapping training to support them against eminent threats from the Mexican government to evict them. So the Mexican government was threatening to evict the Mayan community and move them to other jungle communities because they were on a preserve. At the time, we only did a media training because the community was too weary of outsiders, they saw how officials came in, made maps, and tried to use the maps to justify displacing them. The trip had a huge influence on me and led me to think about the importance of mapping indigenous community and how many groups are dependent on outsiders for mapping support, when they really want to be doing it themselves.

And that is when I met Gregor MacLennan, my colleague, who many of you may know. And at the time, he also – he came from a mapping background, working with indigenous groups in the Amazon, and he was working from a place of dependency, and many of these groups were so dependent on him. And we felt there was an opportunity to change this. The technology is adapting so rapidly that tools that were not possible a few years ago can map these communities. So we got support from the Night Challenge, and that enabled us to start working together.

So this goes back to San Gregorian in 2014, at that time, we built up a trust with them, they knew that we would not use in maps that were not in line with their desires and goals. They asked us back and, as we always do, we started with paper maps. And the communities drew really beautiful maps of their territory.

And what they really needed were boundaries maps, and they needed tools to create a digital map. But they live a two-day walk from internet access, we had to figure out how to do it offline, we did not want to use ArcGIS because of ease of use, we wanted a tool that they could use ourselves.

So the iD editor got it to work offline on these computers, a hack running locally on these computers. It was amazing to watch as we put a projector against the community building, and those that were trained in GPS brought their GPS back and they saw on the big screen how the GPS loaded into this app, and they got to see it working. And so we actually got to draw the boundary of their community. And they realized they were off in their calculations, how big it actually was, which was an important process for them in talking with the government.

And this was a first example of us using OpenStreetMap tools for the purposes, adapting them for the purposes of local partners.

We have come a long way since 2014 and address the data structure in a different way. This is a screenshot of our partners, and the Morani map and the way they are using the iD editor to work in their communities. So we are officially launching this weekend a preview of Mapeo that all of you can download and play around with and use and break and tell us where the bugs are, and help us fix and make it better. You can go to mapeo.world. And we are really excited, because this is a tool that has been built off of, excuse me, off of OpenStreetMap, both iD editor, as well as the approach to data that the OpenStreetMap community has. But it has been adapted for the needs of the local communities. And, while we are working with communities in the Amazon, we believe that it could be useful to many other places.

So, what makes Mapeo special it works offline and has a decentralized data structure, so our partners can use USBSTX to share data between each other, and there is asynchronous syncing between all of them, and it is easy to use. Our partners can use it, adapt it, and create their icons and stories through it.

This did not come out of a vacuum, our team is small and it wouldn’t have been made possible if it were not for the open source mapping community that is here. I want to acknowledge that, and I especially Thank Mapbox for building iD editor, talk about our partners in Peru, Ecuador, and Guyana for testing and improving ways this can work, Amazon front lines, and for them to be flexible enough to allow us to experiment. It took us four years to get to this point, it would not be responsible without vendors who let us experiment.

If you want to know more about Mapeo, you can talk to me, but I encourage you to talk to my team members. I will have you stand up. Steven, Gregor, these are my colleagues. And this is our UX designer on a recent trip to Ecuador. Get to know us, we have different expertise on how Mapeo is working. And we have other partners, Sub Stack, that worked on a lot of the key architecture in the OSM peer to-peer database, and our colleague, Marissa, and the Dev CT team that we are working on with a lot of projects and figuring out a lot of the challenges with OSM peer to-peer peer-to-peer and helping us improve it.

We are in an urgent moment on an environmental and societal front. Never have we as a species had access to so much knowledge and information, and never had we so urgently needed to apply it to ensure our continued existence.

I hope that this presentation has shown some of the ways that maps have been used terribly, and also show the ways that maps and the people who make them can make the world more just.

Everything that we make has an impact in the world around us, and by making OpenStreetMap open source, for example, from all the contributions of thousands of volunteers, our team has been able to co-create a new form of mapping with our partners in the Amazon.

And I think this is just the tip of what is possible. Whether you are hacking on Mapeo to make it relevant to other use cases, or applying it to the ecosystem and pressing challenges, I want to encourage each of us to consider how to further adapt and innovate tools so the maps we make can shape the future we want to see.

Thank you.


If you have questions, feel free to – I have two mics.

Has Mapeo thought of mapping problem areas in the United States, such as the Dakotas, and the creeping urban sprawl, which has taken over affordable housing and replacing it with McMansions, people own two to four houses while others live on the streets?

Emily Jacobi: Yes, our methodology is driven in working with local partners, we have been talking to indigenous groups in the United States, and they have similar use cases and needs, and a lot of reservations don’t have internet access. And so a tool that works offline in a distributed fashion makes a lot of sense, and we are trying to explore partnerships there. And anybody could take Mapeo and apply it to urban sprawl, or the other things, it may or may not be the right tool for that. We are happy to talk about that. It is a tool that is very much designed for distributed mapping, and I think that’s it – yeah. That is something that you can definitely look into. Thank you.

Audience member: Hello, I loved your presentation. I’m curious with the geography, and how that led you to map everything. In the native area, how did they use their maps, where the people have no computers and they have to draw on paper maps?

Emily Jacobi: Yes, we start with paper maps, they are so accessible, and even though the people who are not literate, they can draw paper maps. So we start with that, and we use Mapeo in the second stage of turning the paper maps into digital maps.

Audience member: I know that the paper maps, you can scan into GIS.

Emily Jacobi: Yes, we don’t scan into GIS, but there are initiatives that do that.

Yes, digitizing maps –

Yes, you have experienced that. Thank you.

Audience member: Thank you for this amazing talk, we have seen the proliferation of mobile devices in many parts of the developing world. Are there plans in the future to deploy them in future locations, particular to Mapeo?

Yes, we are working on a mobile version of Mapeo for global data collection, it has been many years in the making. We are working on that. If you go to our website and sign up for our listserv, a very low-volume one, we sent one email the past year, but we are doing more and we will be sharing more about that as we go along.

Host: I think we have time for one more question, and Emily is running out of voice, I can tell.

Audience participant: Thank you for your presentation, are those boundaries loaded into OpenStreetMap?

Emily Jacobi: Awesome question, I should have included these into the presentation. So one thing with Mapeo, the choice is on our partners, our partners right now are using it for their own processes and for sharing information internally. However, ultimately, they will get to choose which things are shared with OpenStreetMap and which things don’t. And of course, people believe in and support open data. When it comes to marginalized communities, sometimes open data, it can mean actually extracting information from those communities. And so we believe that it is better that they have the ability to choose where and when things are uploaded. All of our partners are making maps that they first and foremost use internally and plan to share with outsideers, so these are ultimately maps that will be shared with the outside world.

I encourage you to get the maps, at least with the boundaries out there.

Right now, there are only three countries that have indigenous lands that are recognized: United States, Canada, and Australia. So it would be great to see Ecuador in that as well.

There are many countries without indigenous rights recognized, thank you.

I will end with one quote that I forgot to pull up. This is just, on the idea of indigenous mapping, Fernando was a geographer was working with indigenous communities and that maps are used to take more land than with guns, but we can reclaim it more with maps in the future.


Host:. Yes, just a quick reminder that we need to stay on schedule so we will not miss the satellite.


Thank you again, Emily, it was wonderful to get an update on what you are working on. So we will all go into the first session, and the break is at 10:45?


And then, back again at 11:10.

Thanks, everyone.

Live captioning by Lindsay @stoker_lindsay at White Coat Captioning @whitecoatcapx