"Let's get a few people along and do a jam. All we need is three people". With that in mind, David Pecotic started Canberra's first Map Jam by accident last year. Originally conceived as a casual collaboration with a few like-minded acquaintances, the event unexpectedly drew a small crowd after David submitted it as an event for the Changemakers Festival. In this post, David talks about his ideas on the sharing economy and how map jams can help communities.
How do you define the "sharing economy"?
The sharing economy is about providing the means whereby people can utilise under-utilised resources - whether they be skills, products or services. The markets, as they currently, stand are arranged in such a way that there are "market failures". For example, rubbish is going to the fill but it could be reused. There are skills languishing which could be used in some way but no-one's figured out a way of connecting them to the people who want to use those skills.
How are map jams related to the sharing economy?
MapJam is part of the Sharing Cities Network. They've taken the idea of a
sharing economy and tried to maintain
the diversity of what it means for local communities. For them it's about
encouraging shared assets and community assets, or creating a
marketplace or a way to facilitate peer-to-peer connections.
The idea of the
map is that you create the visibility (of these assets) and then it creates a marketplace. It
creates a place where projects can be shared because people didn't know
they existed before. Because it's an editable map, you can make
connections with other cities. Without visibility, a lot of what's
under the radar unless it involves billions of dollars of investment, and that's a place where the profile needs to be
lifted. That's why I got involved with Map Jam. Plus it seemed like a fun thing to do.
What about data integrity? How do people using these datasets be reassured of data integrity since they're editable by anyone?
The sharing economy deals with this problem by making the transaction between the buyer and the
seller, or the person with X
and the person who wants X, as transparent and as open as possible. This is where the idea of reputation services and trust mechanisms come
in. Wikipedia has similar principles where anyone can be an editor and
anyone can edit over someone's edit. It's more about community
management than a technical solution. The tech solutions are there -
there's no mystery about how we create maps or maintain it. The hard
part is making sure that it's useful enough for people, and that it gets
enough use that it becomes self-maintaining.
Why is the sharing economy interesting to you?
In the past two or three years it's just exploded. This is where the
startups are happening in the world. This is where all the innovation is happening. What people in the startups are looking at is "How does it apply to a market problem? How can I
use that tech to create a market, where I know there's demand and
supply but there's no way of connecting people together?" And that's why companies like
Uber, AirBnB and ParkHound are all in this space, because they can do that now.
applicable to the community level. It isn't necessarily about making
money - although people can do that if they want to; there's nothing
wrong with making money. It's about trying to keep it open and communal,
and nurturing the
non-commercial part of the sharing economy without getting in the way of
the commercial part. That, I think, is an interesting place to play in.
Governments need to start thinking about these
digital technologies because they aren't going away. They're becoming more and more
part of the infrastructure and embedded in everyday stuff. How can we
creatively as policy makers, at all levels of government, about using these
solutions for "wicked problems"? So that the government doesn't own it, the
users own it. This is one of the things that makes it interesting. It's a user-led, demand-led idea.
Why do you think the idea of sharing economies has become prominent in recent years?
The sharing economy has popped up because of the rapid expansion of
technology that enables people to cut out the middle man and effectively
do peer-to-peer. The principle has been
built on from there - creating a digital marketplace where demand and
supply can meet, and having some kind of trust or reputation mechanisms so that people know
they can exist in a marketplace like this that doesn't necessarily
What would you like to see happen with future map jams in Canberra?
Melbourne and Adelaide, map jams have reached enough of a critical mass to have
local and state government interest. It would great if in the near
future we would get the same interest from the ACT government, as well as peak bodies
and non-profits looking at what we're doing and thinking that this is a
useful thing that they can support in some way - whether it's in kind or
But before we get to that stage, it's about making what we've done visible. We ended up
with a map and people who are interested in doing things. The next step is to
find out if there's community interest. Canberra's
unique in that even though its a small town, it's dispersed. So you have to go to the suburbs where there's a
shopping complex or places where there might be a
community group. Tell the story and ask people "What would you put
in here?" Then get people to see the value of it by contributing it so they can say "All
our resources are on here and we can use it". After a few times of
doing that, you'll have a use case.
The tech side isn't difficult because it's about the gap
analysis. We don't know what we don't know because there's often no
data around. It might be just a local group that puts together a
book club, or a neighbourhood that decides to create a
small community garden and they just do it. No-one else knows about it
unless they bump into it, overhear it, or say something at work. So what we need to do next is look at how [map jams] can fill in those
gaps. The only way you can do that is by talking to the community.
There's enough of a critical mass now in terms of visibility of the idea
and people with requisite technical and experiential skills to engage
with it in a way that isn't esoteric. You can make it practical and
accessible to people.
Labels: innovation, MapJam