Accepted Paper:

Communities and Markets on the Geoweb - How Do Open Data Web Maps Compare With Proprietary Ones?  

Author:

Valentina Carraro (Pontificia Universidad Catolica)

Paper short abstract:

This research considers the debates around market/commons in connection with web-cartography. Once the appanage of the State, maps are now often produced either by corporations or by user communities. How do these two models play out on the map?

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers the debates around market/commons in connection with web-cartography. New - e.g. GPS, fast Internet, smartphones - have radically transformed cartographic practices. Once the appanage of the State, maps are now produced by a wide range of actors. Corporations such as Google have established themselves as new providers and mediators of geographic information. On the other hand, collaborative, open-data maps have also emerged, most notably OpenStreetMap. Building on Critical Cartography work that sees maps as inevitably political, I investigate how these different models play out on the map. The logic (commons vs market) according to which map-makers work, I argue, is one of the 'actors' that define the map. Adopting an STS approach, I consider the map as a process, rather than a finished artefact, and seek to open the 'map black-box', pointing at its different components: hardware, software, user communities, ideas about free knowledge, legislation, profit opportunities, etc.

Drawing on the inductive analysis of online maps, discussion forums, user documentation, corporate press releases, etc., I problematise widespread, polarised characterisations of corporate and collaborative maps, while also acknowledging the important differences between the two models. Finally, I raise the issue of which communities, and which markets, are enmeshed in popular web-maps. Overall, I argue that 'real world' inequalities extend to digital geographies, and influence online maps, whether they are provided in a market or commons setting.

Panel T018
Markets versus commons? What relationships? What roles for STS?