What do you consider your community? Is it a set of people that share the same ideas or characteristics as you? Is it a certain area or neighborhood, or does it extend farther than a neighborhood?

Geography plays a major role in how we perceive what a community includes. The idea of community is one bound by geography. Inside each community there are different communities to which we belong. Whether it is our national sense of community, which is bound by borders and fences; or a community based on who you identify with, such as LGBT, athletes, mothers. Even then we can delve into the details of who is included in a particular community. Boundaries, borders, and lines on a map make a huge difference in how we perceive certain areas of where we live. Spatial extent is something most people consider when thinking about the community they live in. We draw boundaries and borders, but to understand what your community holistically is, these borders and boundaries must be broken down, examined, and challenged. For example, if a father who lives in Canada considers his community; maybe he considers it only as those in his country that also share the his characteristics and are bound by the Canadian border. This would exclude the rest of the world that share the same characteristics. This is an age of connection; we all have connections to other areas and people we may not realize.

By using maps, we are able to spatially understand what resources are readily available, but there are other things maps can indicate. Maps are important in showing spatial patterns, areas of neglect, opportunity, and even non-engagement in the sense of community mapping. Maps can also tell lies; they can be inaccurate and deceiving to the viewer by leaving certain data out, or displaying only some of the available data, as Mark Monmonier tells in his novel, How to Lie With Maps. However, maps are more useful than harmful to most agendas, they show spatial extents, patterns, histories, stories, among other things. They are a helpful tool in seeing where your community’s resources are and what kinds of patterns exist. Maps can be used to convey many different ideas, almost anything really. If you can study it, you can map it. In my experience with physical geography, GIS (Geographic Information Systems), and human geography, I have found that the possibilities to spatially display ideas and information are endless. The term Geography is derived from the Latin term Geographia, and ultimately from Greek geographein; Geo (Earth) and Graphein (to write). Geography seeks to study and describe the earth, including patterns and features. Maps are the most effective in relaying the messages that geography seeks to display. In this day and age we are drawn to visual representations of ideas. Geographers use maps as a useful and intriguing representation of spatial ideas.

When I started collaborating with Gk & Allison for this project, I saw great opportunity to show the difference in where resources are in relation to a specific issue. For me community based mapping is a very important tool to convey a message, and to engage with the people in proximity to me. I wanted to engage people in a fun way and have them learn about where their resources are and to show how similar we all are, even in a city divided by myriad borders and boundaries. Among other divides, Kansas City has a racial divide. Where people are from or where they live has bearing on how people view you and who they think you are. But it is with Contracting An Issue (CAI) project that I want to break the stereotypes, and show the Kansas City community that we are all connected in the sense of this subject. When we break down those boundaries, and challenge our borders, we see that there is little that prevents us from including each other as a community. Primarily it is space that separates us, not race, gender, or social class. - Michael Kaiser

Coming Soon ! : Cartography- CAI

Another layer of engagement in the Contracting An Issue project; a series of resource/ thematic mapping projects from geographer Michael Kaiser

Here are a few HIV/AIDS related articles over the past few weeks that are worth checking out

The Conversation -Academic rigor, journalistic flair

When it comes to health care, young gay men are falling through the cracks

Why are HIV survival rates lower in the Deep South than the rest of the US?