November 11, 2007

community mapping = racial profiling?

Interesting to see how the latest community mapping efforts in LA has set off such a heated debate. It's interesting to contrast this with the developments that take place at such events as the recent ESRI Homeland security summit where it was recently discussed that cataloging and mapping a city's assets (public and private) is a mammoth task but one that is required in order to develop an effective emergency response plan and to secure situational awareness. Community mapping (mapping at the community level) typically involves gathering socio-economic variables in order to visualize their relationships (in time and space). But, when you throw "religion" into the mix watch out. It's somewhat confusing to think that the public has such a vocal outcry regarding such an effort yet people are demanding a secure place to live. Personally I can't understand why mapping the relationships and distribution of populations based on ethnicity is so controversial. Think of an effort to locate or monitor visitors to the country... it's well documented that migrants tend to try and assimilate themselves into a population that is similar in race, ethnicity, income and yes, even religion so unless one is aware of the cultural make-up of of a community how then is it possible to create that mental map? No doubt this outcry will persist but until we are able to add cultural layers to the database how is it possible to create the all important situational awareness and mental model of reality - map the infrastructure but don't map the people! More on the debate can be found in this LA Times article

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