Pirate Maps Workshop

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Pirate Maps Workshop
Wed 30.03.2016, 19:00
Metalab, Hauptraum
Josh Harle, Tkolar
Workshop about Pirate Maps
Zuletzt aktualisiert: 27.03.2016

What are Pirate Maps?

Pirate Maps are an alternative to Google’s ubiquitous representation of the world; a cheap, handy WiFi map server developed as part of tech artist Josh Harle's MuseumsQuartier residency with the Research Institute for Arts and Technology. The maps borrow Google's look and feel – pinch zoom, swipe navigation, dynamically updating map tiles – but present the maker’s own maps: anything from conventional representations to crayon drawn scrawls or biro-annotated sketches.

Pirate Maps are hosted via Raspberry Pi single-board computers, which can be made weather-proof, and can even be run via battery or solar if mains power is impractical. With an affordable 5dBi antenna/WiFi interface they have a range of about 50 metres, and when installed in an area effectively are ‘visible’ and usable within this range. The cost of each device with enclosure, power adaptor, WiFi, and appropriate weatherproofing is less than €100.

The devices show up as an open WiFi network (many phones/devices will give a notification that it has found an open WiFi network). They could be set up as a number of spatially overlapping Wifi-networks each with a different name corresponding to themes, perspective, or artist. Using HTML5 and javascript and providing multiple formats of media, the devices can host maps, text, video, and audio content. Most of the processing is done on the audiences’ devices, so it scales well: there isn’t significantly more strain on the Raspberry Pi device as more users connect to it. Users choosing to connect to the open WiFi (no password needed), are automatically forwarded to the WiFi’s landing page.

The maps have an interesting locality: instead of being available 'everywhere', they wedge themselves into little nooks and hide in the quiet corners of the city. They are much more intimate and must be sought out and found.


We are interested in workshopping ideas for smaller, cheaper, or more interesting platforms for the map (e.g. $5 Pi Zero). We'd like to hear people's ideas of interesting ways of powering the maps, like solar, battery, etc. (E.g. I've just got hold of a bunch of USB hand-crank chargers that might be fun to use)

A how-to will be developed shortly on how to construct the standard map hardware, and with tools for creating sets of map tiles. We plan to hold workshops on how to create Pirate Maps that will include:

  • An introduction to the Pirate Map device: discussion of concept, possibilities, and demonstration of an example map.
  • Creating the physical hardware for the map server: Constructing the Raspberry Pi, discussions on site-specific enclosures, weatherproofing, power options, and install
  • Setting up software for the map server: Configuring a Raspberry Pi to host the rebel map, from a standard Raspbian installation.

The workshop would be held over 3 hours including time to discussion possible alternative platforms and power options.

Further reading