UMA_Presentation_10_20_10 (entire slide show with all map views)

I became interested in the practice of food foraging from a classmate who brought it up during a class.  Through a little Google research, I learned that a man named Steve Brill has been enjoying the edible offerings of Central Park for almost 30 years.  This was amazing to me, and I thought that certainly there had to be a network of followers who also strive to truly “live off the land.”  Indeed, I found several blogs, rusty websites (and a few polished ones) and personalities who have vowed to take full advantage of the nutritious, free resources available – even in places like New York City.

Originally when I set out to do this map critique, I knew I wanted to explore the demographic representation of food foraging in New York City, fully assuming I’d find a PDF-version of a map with colorful pictures of growing food.  This was unfortunately not the case.  After literally several hours of exhaustive searches, the only map I came up with was a black and white jpeg of Silver Lake, CA – that had very blurry initials sprinkled all over the image representing where certain forage-able  fruits were available for the taking.   I decided I’d better broaden my ideal map example for this project.

Because he is “America’s Best Known Forager” and nicknamed “Wildman Steve,” I gave his website a second chance for critique.  After much clicking (his site is all housed under one URL, so the “back” function only exists sporadically) and after accidentally navigating away from the site several times, I came to his Tour Calendar page, which lists chronologically all of the tours he’ll be giving in the next year.  For each tour, Steve outlines which types of plants his group will encounter, where they’ll be found in reference to easily-recognized Central park landmarks, and a handful of subcategories such as the dangers of ingesting certain species, ideas for cooking with a particular plant, seasonal information.  His text was full of links, lists and categories.

He created a map without a typical diagram.  Evaluating what I liked about his map, the things he does to well were extremely useful “mapping” tools.  He represented demographic information using landmarks.  He carefully broke each tour down by date and season.  He listed subcategories that pertained to a specific plant in a specific place.  To me, this was a map without a map!

My prototype uses Steve’s information in its entirety.  I wanted to be careful to preserve the wittiness and rugged nature of his words, and even attempt to mimic the general organization of his categories.  I evaluated his textual, link-filled map and realized that it would only be truly effective for this particular audience when used with a map of Central Park alongside it, so I decided to melt his information into an interactive map of Central Park.  His text gave me the directional cues I needed to plot items on the map, using one particular tour as an example.  I plotted Chickweed on the map in the area of the Delacorte Theater, using a carrot to pin the demographic location and a pop-up window to outline Steve’s information about the particular plant.  Links lead to other subcategories already provided in his textual map.

For fun, I also included a dream-version of a mobile site, which perhaps could be used while foragers are actually taking a tour with Steve; a network of food foragers could potentially be connected over periods of time with this mapping tool!