Holistic, hyperlocal atlases go the extra mile

UC Berkeley’s Cartography and GIS Education Lab, housed in the geography department, creates maps of different Bay Area communities that give a deeper sense of what an area is all about. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill street maps, showing you how to get from point A to point B — instead, they highlight a diverse array of topics, from where to find affordable housing in a neighborhood to how many gangs and bakeries occupy the same block.

Students work with cartographer Darin Jensen, a lecturer at the lab, to create these hyperlocal maps and then compile them to make an atlas. To ensure that maps are authentic representations, cartographers go into the field to experience each area firsthand.

Currently, the group is mapping a street: localmap410International Boulevard, a major thoroughfare that starts in downtown Oakland and runs through many diverse neighborhoods of East Oakland to the border with San Leandro.

The atlas, called Intranational International Boulevard, aims to “create a holistic picture of place and uncover the alternative narratives that may run counter to the historically uni-dimensional reputation of East Oakland.”

The lab has already created more than 20 maps that reveal all sorts of interesting issues that a typical map wouldn’t, including the prevalence of childhood asthma and the density of public art.

In 2012, the lab group published an atlas of San Francisco’s Mission District, Mission Possible: A Neighborhood AtlasOne map is called “Dolores Park: From Burial Ground to Open Market,” and features residents’ stories about the park. “It was hella foggy the night I heard the ghost man,” one story starts out, “and you know this place was built on two cemeteries!” The story goes on to recount the experience.

The project is being funded by UC Berkeley’s pilot crowdfunding platform, where more information is available. To get involved in the project, contact Darin Jensen at djensen@berkeley.edu.