Python, VLFeat SIFT, PHP, FPDF, Modest Maps, GDAL, and OpenStreetMap Potlatch software
Walking Papers is an interface that makes a complex process (digital mapping) and a democratic service (OpenStreetMap, a free and editable map of the world) transparent and approachable. Users select the places they wish to annotate and print out a map, which is tagged with QR codes that will link the map back to OpenStreetMap’s database; they then take to the streets, penciling in data as they go. This information is scanned and uploaded (or sent by mail) to the Walking Papers site and traced into OpenStreet- Map. In this way, participants help detail maps of their own neighborhoods with useful, eye-level data—restaurants, post-office boxes, ATMs—without expensive equipment or extensive knowledge of the technology. Stamen Design notes that the process combines mapping with “web-service opportunism and old-fashioned undigital fulfillment.” Although designed with the amateur mapper in mind, Walking Papers has proven useful in extraordinary situations, such as after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, when the existing mapped infrastructure was largely destroyed and locating relief camps, hospitals, and other services was a vital task. Its usefulness in that context has endured: data on the Walking Papers website shows that, a year after the earthquake, maps of Haiti still accounted for almost 25 percent of total uploads. Walking Papers is a process both personalized and collective, and the physical papers it produces are artifacts of exploration.