As Sunlight’s Video production Director it is my delight to be producing an ongoing video series called OpenGov Champions, featuring citizens who take action in their own ways to open up, or as in this case, contribute to, government data.
I was especially excited to go to Brooklyn, NY to film this episode in which we showcase Liz Barry from Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) and their grassroots mapping efforts. Theirs is a unique way to work with and contribute to open government data. I had watched Liz’s TED talk about the mapping they did in 2010 of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Their maps were the only high resolution images available at the onset of the spill and spread all over the world media because access to airspace was restricted and planes could not capture aerial photos using traditional methods. It all had started with Jeffrey Warren in MIT and others who were experimenting with new ways to create high resolution maps using low cost, DIY technology like kites, balloons and cheap digital cameras. When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, they saw the opportunity to help by mapping the scope of the disaster. That’s when Liz met them and jumped right in, helping with logistics and connecting people with boats and crews. In my mind there is a rock star quality to this kind of opengov data work. And they have indeed gotten a lot of fame for their work and were a Knight News Challenge winner in 2011 among other things.