Youth Advocacy Through Civic Mapmaking

Tuesday, February 14, 2023 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm

In this virtual presentation, Yanni Loukissas will share the arc of his research over the past ten years to rethink what data can mean for civic life, culminating in recent work on civic mapmaking tools for youth advocacy.

Dr. Loukissas spent the last year working with colleagues at Georgia Tech, Savannah State, and the City of Savannah to develop a toolkit that can support youth advocacy through civic mapmaking. In the context of our data-driven society, this toolkit is not what you might expect. It relies on paint pens, drawing paper, and conversation prompts, which are meant to help kids reflect on the uneven social and economic effects of disasters. These analog tools are given digital precision by Map Spot, an open-source software and hardware system that they made to guide collaborative mapmaking.

Today, kids are often left out of civic life. They have few tools for advocating on behalf of the places they live. What might the tools for youth advocacy look like? This past fall, in a middle-school on the West side of Savannah, Georgia, kids stayed after class two days a week to explore this question. They shared family stories about the environmental disasters they have lived through: hurricanes, heat waves, industrial accidents, and of course the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They learned about existing sources of data they might use, such as sea level sensors, historical maps, and census records, along with the underlying assumptions and biases those sources carry. Then, they began to draw the stories and data together. They created their own advocacy maps, thirty-six square feet in size, and presented them to local policymakers. Their maps had the power to express how they see the environmental threats to their communities and suggest imaginative ways of mitigating them.