The New York Public Library is training computers to recognize building shapes and other information from old city maps, and they need your help!  Take a few minutes to help hone the data; no experience or knowledge required! This is a very neat experiment in crowdsourcing data aggregation for use to improve civic society.

Check out this FluNearYou video, which is the result of a phenomenal collaboration by a hospital, a public health association, and a funder. The government should be monitoring and taking action to prevent this national threat, but they’re not doing much of anything right now (or ever?), so it’s lucky that this project is stepping in.

Lucy Berholz shared thoughts on this collaboration on her blog, Philanthropy 2173

This is essentially crowdsourcing information on behalf of public health. We’re also seeing citizen crowdfund for city services that aren’t available through tax revenue – see this story on security in Oakland. What we need to ensure is that these types of actions work with government and each extends the other. If we get to the point where we are relying on crowds to fund core public services, our democracy will be in even more trouble than it is now. But if we can use the crowd platforms to engage people, to partner with the public sector, to expand and complement civic responsibility than we’ll be that much the better for it.Understanding these forms of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing as political acts – and designing them for maximum public benefit – is a big opportunity.

Canadian makes very cool map of United States

This map uses dirt from every state, and it’s made by an 85-year-old retired ad agency art director. His favorite soils came from Colorado (“quite reddish”), Maine (“pale and sandy”), and Mississippi and Alabama (“deeply colored with iron oxide”). The soils have varying degrees of acidity, and each is a slightly different color.

Read more about the map and Les Gregor’s process. If you like it, you can purchase one! Personally, I love how gritty and ‘American’ it feels (yes, including the irony of the artist’s home country) and would LOVE to own one…

Mad Men Mapped in NYC

Even though all but the pilot episode of Mad Men have been filmed in LA, NYC is where the show is set and all of the action happens. WNYC has mapped some of the places Peggy, Don, Roger, and others frequent; just click on each spot to read when we saw it. See any favorites on there?