How Can Mapping aid Art Collaboration in the Philippines?

Dear Friends,

As July comes to a close so does the Summer Fellows time in the Philippines. It’s sad to see the summer ending so quickly. As I have learned over the summer it takes time to find your footing some place new, especially coming in with very few connections.

The AidData Summer Fellows have had a busy two weeks. Our contacts are starting to ask for more trainings and presentations. We presented at the University of the Philippines, met with Project Noah and are tomorrow will be traveling to Cebu for a training with Passarelles Numeriques.

However, one of my favorite opportunity this week has been working with the Japan Foundation and Marc Ocampo. We are trying to figure out how mapping can help aid mapping collaboration in the Philippines. It’s been fun to think about Arts and Culture for a little while AND there isn’t a comprehensive map that shows cultural sites around the Philippines, especially one that is open and accessible to all.

Here are some thoughts I have been trying to put together for the whole event!

Map the Philippines is an NGO that promotes the use of open data and spatial thinking in all areas of Filipino culture. During its kickoff event, the Unconference, attendants were able to choose subjects they wanted to discuss about mapping. This blog post stems off an issue raised during one of these sessions. How can mapping help art coordination in the Philippines?

Marc Joseph Ocampo is a dynamic project coordinator working in Makati. Together with the Japan Foundation he is looking for ways to track art and ease tension between artists in the provinces and Metro Manila. He relates, “Historically contemporary art is centralized in Manila while the provinces are overlooked, but this periphery is just as active, if not more, in the Philippine contemporary art scene.”But, he tells us, when people think of contemporary art in the Philippines, they think Manila and this can cause tension.

Marc wants to use this spatial processing to visualize “how art institutions, art groups and independent art organizations connect and communicate to help us track how the periphery has shifted the center, if at all.” This way the Japan Foundation can “identify gaps in the art infrastructure, who [they] can support and who is lacking support”.

The Japan Foundation has been working in Manila since 1996 to “enhance goodwill and understanding via the promotion of cultural exchange.” One of its current projects is to create a guide to art and culture to “support rising curators of South East Asia.” Read & Run, the 2015 guide for the Philippines, consists of more than 81 historical sites, art galleries and museums. These places provide a wealth of invaluable information in Bacolod, Baguio and Manila. Yet in its original format, print and pdf, it is not easily replicable. Without a digital key the data cannot be easily analyzed, edited or expanded.

So, here is our challenge. The Japan Foundation wants to start thinking spatially. We want to help them do this and follow open data practices. We recommend using OpenStreetMap but for first time users this isnt as convenient as google maps or simply making your own datasets. How do we streamline this transition to make it as easy as possible?


The AidData Summer fellows are working to consolidate the process by making walk tutorials about how to add to OSM and then download the data. Data must first be collected from the paper guide and galleries around the country and then digitized. Afterwards, it must be enriched with information like artist networks and style it to perform analysis. Collecting this data has the potential to turn tedious and discouraging.

People created and geocode datasets all the time. However, by adding the arts locations to OpenStreetMap, (an open source free online map created by the community) it will actually save time. Using applications like overpass turbo and umap, an institution can download the most recent edits to the map in csv form and enrich the data from there. And with crowdsourcing efforts to have cultural sites added to the map the umap living map will grow. The benefits of OSM: updated, replicable and a public good are a vacation from stagnant csv files that get lost or outdated in a few months. Here is a link to the living map we created

Finally, as this dataset becomes more rich and robust, we can start thinking beyond traditional point locations. What is the distance between artists and galleries? How does the infrastructure outside of Manila affect artists? And finally, how can we re-envision the way artists connect with galleries? Perhaps to begin easing tensions between artists, we need to understand (geographically) where they are coming from.


Example Map made for the Foundation. It is not using real network data but shows what the map could look like if it did!




  1. cmcrowley01 says:

    From working for AidData and learning GIS, I never cease to be amazed at the millions of ways geospatial data can improve the world. I had not thought of it being applied to art infrastructure! This is not only interesting, but looks like it could have some great benefits to increasing social capital in the Philippines. Great work Lu!

  2. Thank you! I am so excited it worked out!