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Accepted Paper:

The wisdom of the local crowd: Digital mapping as a technique of environmental justice  
Jed Stevenson (Durham University) Dessalegn Loyale (Addis Ababa University) Marcos Moreu (University College London)

Paper Short Abstract:

In the context of processes of displacement, digital mapping provides a way of reasserting relationships to place. In contrast to crowd-sourced maps created by remote users, the approach we have taken with collaborators in Ethiopia builds on local people’s intimate knowledge of their environments.

Paper Abstract:

In Ethiopia, a group associated with the NGO Initiative for Pastoralist Communication (IPC) has collaborated with researchers from the UK on a project that combines participatory mapping and participatory software design. The process starts with local people deciding what they want to map and with whom they want to share the data; then the mapping app is co-designed with stakeholders and the mapping and information-sharing process begins. The interface is designed to be useable by people with low or no literacy, recognising that illiteracy does not necessarily imply deficits in (and may be inversely related to) knowledge of place. What is clearly threatening to relationships to place are a series of interventions by outsiders that risk undermining local livelihoods. In the past decade, communities in the Lower Omo Valley have been negatively affected by upstream dam construction – interrupting an annual flood that recharged grazing lands and provided opportunities for riverbank farming – and the expansion of commercial plantations. In the context of these processes of displacement, digital mapping provides a means of reasserting and reinscribing relationships to place. In contrast to conventional crowd-sourced maps created by remote users, our approach emphasises local people’s intimate knowledge of their environments. In this paper we consider the lessons we’ve learned from our collaboration and reflect on opportunities for equitable remuneration and data-sharing.

Panel OP092
Doing justice differently – new approaches to anthropological research in human and environmental health
  Session 1 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -