Conservatism, progressive and regressive change – framing in #OpenStreetMap politics
A bit more than half a year ago i analyzed the political structure of the OpenStreetMap Foundation in the aftermath of the previous board elections. I identified two main factions within the OSMF membership – the craft mapping supporters and the corporate and professional interest faction. In terms of power balance these dominate the OSMF membership about 2:1. That is not representative for the OSM community obviously and as i pointed out back in the election analysis there are likely distinct other factions within the overall OSM community that are not adequately represented in the OSMF membership. Still, these two large factions are also present in the OSM community overall and their diverging views manifest frequently in policy related and other discussions.
I also pointed out that the craft mapping supporters are largely defined by a common set of values while the corporate and professional interest faction is defined through common interests. That is something to keep in mind in the following.
The reason why i revisit this topic now is that a new narrative has come up and is being communicated in the past months in OSMF politics – that is the need for change for OpenStreetMap and of conservative opposition from craft mappers against it. This narrative is largely coming out of the corporate interest faction and is framing the craft mapping supporters as conservative and opposed to any kind of change in principle and themselves as being the advocates of urgently necessary change. An OSMF board member has in public communication recently indicated to being inclined to adopt this narrative. I will get to that in more detail later.
What i did not discuss in my election analysis was how the factions i identified came into being historically. To get a realistic impression on the nature and the motivation of the different political movements in OpenStreetMap understanding the history of the project is paramount.
TL;DR: The framing of craft mapping supporters in OpenStreetMap as conservatives opposed to change is inappropriate given the historic context and present day work of craft mappers all over the world towards progressive change. It has been created by regressive, revisionist interests that would like to roll back the ongoing democratization of geographic knowledge and its collection OpenStreetMap stands for in pursuit of short sighted economic goals.