An alternative map of cities

As part of our Mapping the Social City project with SIX, Ilaria Vitellio, founder of MappiNa, tells us more about this participatory mapping project creating alternative maps of cities.  

MappiNa - Mappa Alternativa delle Città  (Alternative Map of Cities) - is a platform for urban communication built through collaborative mapping, aimed at creating a different image of the city through contributions by its residents. The project was born as an “Alternative map of Naples” and after a year of extending to Rome, Milan and Mestre in Venice, it was changed to an “Alternative Map of Cities”.

Every city has stereotypical images connected to it. Often cities can suffer from these projected images. Naples is an example of this - despite the intense creativity of its residents, its stereotypical image shifts between the most beautiful city in the world and an image of violent and criminal (Mafia) activities. MappiNa aims to interrupt the language currently used to define the city, and to facilitate open readings of it, as expressed by the diverse voices that are to be heard in the city. MappiNa allows citizens to be co-producers of change, giving them opportunity to experiment and play.


MappiNa, a pun on "little map," in Italian, addresses the city that produces stories and images, and not the city that is narrated in books or travel guides. MappiNa engages people like students and culture and art professionals, as well as those who do not see the city as its postcard or iconic image (like a mandolin, a pizza or a Pulcinella). It engages with those who reinterpret the city’s image, starting from the everyday lived experience.

One image of the city that the project connects to, is that of urban culture expressed in street art and street games. MappiNa also focuses on themes like unexpected encounters, the use of public spaces, recycled and self-produced street furniture, sounds and voices heard in the streets (Map of Sound), undefined spaces and abandoned buildings (Map of Unused) and possibilities for repurposing (Map of Ideas), the diversity of operators who produce culture, and finally on the multitude of events (Map of Actors & Events) in cities. Anyone can use the platform to geotag photos, videos, sounds or texts, and can so contribute to a new collective narrative of the city. In Naples, the platform has created the Map of Real Estate Ownership (using georeferenced open data of the City of Naples) to stimulate tactics of urban regeneration and support projects of reuse and re-appropriation of urban space.  

The goal of the platform is to reclaim the city's ability to be a producer of imagination. The goal is to compose a collective map through daily experiences to open a different viewpoint. It is an opportunity providing alternative ways to transform the city.

The MappiNa community is composed of Mappers – those who upload content on the platform, and Lovers - platform users and fans on social media. There are currently more than 400 mappers, many who get together in groups and associations. They have contributed over 1600 pieces of content (images, video, audio, and text). Lovers include fans on the Facebook page – currently just over 4 400, and the users of the platform – currently around 3700 (per week).

The project supports both online and offline activities. The main platform is online, and uses mobile and mapping technology, and is realised through collaborative mapping and urban crowdsourcing. Online activities are developed through campaigns on social networks (making use of images, sounds, photo contests, etc.) and relying on users and fans (those referred to as Lovers).

Offline activities include Open Labs, themed around urban mapping and spatial locations, and workshops to re-imagine abandoned spaces. Open Labs trigger light touch actions in urban spaces. Workshops include audio-visual mapping in which the the public is invited to explore, critically rethink, and reclaim these territories as places to share, learn from, and experience. These missions invite participants to maintain and enhance places through creative and innovative use, even if only temporarily. 

Offline activities aim to involve a wide range of communities  - including residents, youth, cultural workers, and start-ups. Other activities include co-designing spaces, repurposing community spaces and buildings (by creating groups to reuse or temporary re-appropriate places - from gardening initiatives to guerrilla tactical urbanism) and the sharing and exchanging of expertise.

MappiNa was created by urban planner, Ilaria Vitellio, and six other women from different backgrounds. The team is young, with an average age of under 35. The platform, launched in late October 2013, it is completely self-produced, did not benefit from any funding, but shares the spirit of collaboration with other associations, consortia and companies with co-design initiatives and technologies.

In April 2015 MappiNa launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise €30 000, but the target was surpassed, raising €44 600 after ninety days.

Mappina in Neapolitan is the worn out kitchen rag, used and abused, but useful in the daily usage of those who take care of the house.




All images are contributions from the MappiNa platform. 


Building MappiNa is a bit like living in the city.