Charter for Building a Data Commons for a Free, Fair and Sustainable Future

(TransforMap Collective) #1


This Charter/Carta provides practical guidance and political orientation for mapping, modeling, managing and sharing data as a Commons. If you follow these guidlines, you will contribute to a Global Data Commons. That is, you will govern your mapping community and manage data differently than people who centralize data control for profit.

The Charter does not describe the vision, scope or values of a specific mapping project, but Data Commons principles. It will help you reimagine how you protect the animating spirit of your mapping project and prevents your data from being co-opted or enclosed.

The Charter as a whole is the maximum „commons denominator“ of mapping projects that aspire to share data for the common good.

Help commonize maps and data! For the people, by the people.


  1. Reflect on your intentions together
    Discuss the core of your project again and again. Everybody involved should always feel in resonance with the direction in which it’s heading.

  2. Make your community thrive
    For the project to be successful, a reliable community is more important than anything else. Care for those.

  3. Separate commons and commerce
    Mapping for the commons is different from producing services or products to compete on the map-market. Make sure you don’t feed power-imbalances or profit-driven agendas and learn how to systematically separate commons and commerce.

  4. Design for interoperability
    Think of your map as a node in a network of many maps. Talk with other contributors to the Data Commons to find out if you can use the same data model, licence and approach to mapping.

  5. Care for a living vocabulary
    Vocabularies as entry points to complex social worlds are always incomplete. Learn from other mappers’ vocabularies. Make sure your vocabulary can be adjusted. Make it explicit and publish it openly, so that others can learn from it too.

  6. Document transparently
    Sharing your working process, learnings and failures allow others to replicate, join and contribute. Don’t leave documentation for after. Do it often and make it understandable. Use technologies designed for open cooperation.

  7. Crowdsource what you can
    Sustain your project whenever possible with money, time, knowledge, storing space, hardware or monitoring from your community or public support. Stay independent!

  8. Use FLOSS tools
    It gives you the freedom to further develop your own project and software according to your needs. And it enables you to contribute to the development of these tools.

  9. Build upon the open web platform
    Open web standards ensure your map, its data and associated applications cannot be enclosed and are prepared for later remixing and integration with other sources.

  10. Own your data
    In the short run, it seems to be a nightmare to refrain from importing or copying what you are not legally entitled to. In the long run, it is the only way to prevent you from being sued or your data being enclosed. Ban Google.

  11. Protect your data
    To own your data is important, but not enough. Make sure nobody dumps your data back into the world of marketization and enclosures. Use appropriate licenses to protect your collective work!

  12. Archive your project
    When it doesn’t work anymore for you, others still might want to build on it in the future.

How to? Recommendations

NOTE: Each paragraph/principle of the Charter is supposed to be fleshed out via some “how to” recommendations. The following lines are only remnants of former conversations, not yet to be considered a draft of the HOW TO. The idea is to add a HOW TO in such a way, that everybody can easily understand how to implement a principle in his/her project.

Link to WikiData and OpenStreetMap
Don’t maintain your single data set. Contribute as much as possible to already existing data commons. Make them thrive.

Start from Semantic Modelling
Semantic modelling is very powerful, make use of it. Remember: everything derives from your data modelling protocol.

Make data claims traceable
Include/reference data sources. Especially when mapping controversies, include links to organizations and agencies addressing related issues.

Advance people’s needs
There are plenty of fair and sustainable ways to meet people’s needs. To focus on needs eases collaboration and ensures

Self-host your infrastructure
To enable both, collaboration and autonomy, choose technology which allows to be replicated quickly, and enables you to easily iterate and improve your map.

Permaculture Organisations and projects mapping
Strategies for Mapping the eco-social and solidarity economy in soldarity
Permaculture Organisations and projects mapping
🎈 Einladung zu einer Kartierwerkstatt zum Sommeranfang
🎈 Invitation for intermapping digital critical collective cartographies
Research on maps for other economies -- anyone up for interviewing?
🌻 Invitation of tenders
Collecting Intermapping Communities, late 2018
Mapping for the Commons Manifesto
Mapping for the Commons Manifesto
(Silke ) #2

And here we go: Updated and carefully edited version 0.6, with a new name (again ;-)) and way shorter than before. Ready to go and to be spread widely:

This version can also be found here:
@almereyda should we open a new category for it? and put all the manifesto treats as “history” of the charter below?
do you want to update the version on Gitbook? I am not sure gitbook is the place where discussion should take place. What we’ve done so far is - collected feedback and then incorporated it into a new version - after a while. Which is different from an open editing of the Charter.
A Charter - to some extend - is a stand alone piece, for a while and needs a broad and transparent discussion before coming up with an edited/ updated version. So hackpad and transformap and blogs should make it. IMHO.

(Jon Richter) #3

The existing #commoning:governance category seems to be a proper fit for such documents, why for now I will also put the existing manifestos over there. I guess the overall category structure needs to be revised at some point, learning from our experiences documented by @gandhiano in

(Matt Wallis) #4

Good to see this here :slight_smile:

(Jon Richter) #5

Also see these:

And RIPESS apparently also translated the text into French and Spanish already!

(Jon Richter) #6

(Jon Richter) #7

We may learn from other standardisation processes, such as

(Jon Richter) #8


:page_facing_up: Public Commons of Geographic Data: Research and Development Challenges

Abstract. Across the globe individuals and organizations are creating geographic data work products with little ability to efficiently or effectively make known and share those digital products with others. This article outlines a conceptual model and the accompanying research challenges for providing easy legal and technological mechanisms by which any creator might affirmatively and permanently mark and make accessible a geographic dataset such that the world knows where the dataset came from and that the data is available for use without the law assuming that the user must first acquire permission.


(Adrien Labaeye) #9

Nice work! I am wondering about the opportunity here of emphasizing the notion of commoning as a practice over the commons as a resource. Maybe an additional paragraph about encouraging data commoners to clearly define the contours of the practice of data commoning in their initiative: clearly defining and communicating, as well as regularly updating, the how, who, and where of such commoning. This may be integrated in 6. Document transparently.

Would be good to give a hint where to publish that:

(Jon Richter) #10