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Welcome the Commons Atlas!

Ellen Friedman and the good folks at CommonSpark website (“a collective of commons activators”) are in the early stages of assembling a new sort of resource guide for the commons, “The Commons Atlas.”  This innovative project is a collection of online maps, “threat maps,” datasets and tools for creating data visualizations (geospatial maps, timelines, network maps, mindmaps, infographics, etc. ) related to the commons.

The diversity of visual systems to locate various commons is wonderful!  If you want to find out where you can locate fruit trees and other edibles for personal gleaning, go to Falling Fruit, Forage Berkeley and Mundraub (Germany).

The atlas includes a map of Maker projects in the US, and a map, “Vivir Bien” (good living) that shows where to locate “resources for a solidarity economy.”  Can’t find a place to sit in a city?  Check out Street Seats, which identifies seats and benches where you can sit down in public spaces.

On the Common Atlas, you can find the “Bike-sharing World Map” and and the Great Lakes Commons Map  which plots people’s stories on a map of the Great Lakes along with harms to it.

The “threat maps” includes a map of countries that label and don’t label GMOs; “Fracmapper” of fracking sites; a geotagged mapping of hateful tweets in the US; and a map of “poisoned places.”  I am so impressed with the datasets, too – datasets from “Hack for Change”; a “red list of [endangered] ecosystems”; and the government dataset portal,

The atlas is currently hosted on the CommonSpark website, but eventually it will be moved to its own Web platform. Anyone is invited to submit new maps and links to the site.  “We plan to share significant pieces as they are developed,” Friedman told me, “to encourage feedback, conversation and collaboration.”

To help fund the atlas over the long term, Friedman and a few friends including Marina Petric and Juniper, made a banner adapted from an old woodcut by Walter Crane called "A Garland for May Day 1895."  (See above.)  It was in the public domain, and was perfect for adaptation to our times!  CommonSpark plans to make t-shirts, banners and other things in the near future.  

The banner may have a great future as a political prop!  It has made a public appearance at a rally against Monsanto in May, and also at the state capitol in Austin during the recent attack on women’s rights. Friedman reports:  “I believe it will be a way to bring the commons discussion into so many different rallies, marches and other activism.”

You probably can’t read all of the little inscriptions on the scrollwork in the banner.  Here are a few:  “Hope in Work, Joy in Leisure”; “Shared Power in the Commons”; “A Commonwealth is Wealth in Common”; “Equity in Commoning”; and “Renaissance through Relationship.”  Perhaps this banner will spark some friendly competitors! 

The Commons Atlas is a fantastic idea that will surely grow as more people find out about it, and use it to expand their own mental maps of the commons.  Happy browsing -- and please send your commons map discoveries to the Commons Atlas! 

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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