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GC Digital Mappers Help Puerto Rico Recover

GC students help create digital, open-source map of Puerto Rico.
A participant looks at satellite imagery of Puerto Rico to participate in a “mapathon” on Sept. 29, 2017. Photo by Corinne Segal/PBS NewsHour

The digital humanities are proving to be extremely useful in the Hurricane Maria recovery effort in Puerto Rico.

In a story on “mapathons” being held at colleges across the county, PBS NewsHour quoted a Graduate Center doctoral candidate and a recent alumna who used open source digital mapping to help in delivering supplies to remote areas of the devastated island.

Ph.D. candidate Javier Otero Peña (Earth and Environmental Studies), a member of the GC Digital Fellows program with expertise in mapping software, and alumna Luisina Silva (MALS ’14, Digital Humanities), who is returning to the GC as a visiting scholar, participated in a mapathon at Columbia University. Mapathon participants used the OpenStreetMap platform to synthesize public knowledge about the areas affected by Maria and help recovery teams distribute aid safely.

“It feels good to try to help,” Otero Peña, who is from Venezuela, told PBS NewsHour.

He leads events for Geographic Information Systems Working Group of the Digital Fellows, and commented in the story, that “this is the first time I actually get a chance to do something meaningful with” digital mapping.  

Silva added that she prefers to support the recovery effort with time and effort, rather than money when “you don’t know where it’s going.” Mapping “only takes a couple of hours … this is very useful,” she commented.

Learn more about the Master of Liberal of Arts (MALS) track in digital humanities.

Learn more about the GC Digital Fellows.

Submitted on: OCT 2, 2017

Category: Earth and Environmental Sciences | General GC News | Liberal Studies