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MA02


Scaling the map: Contemporary theoretical and methological innovations in participatory cartographic production 
Convenors:
Gertrude Saxinger (Austrian Polar Research Institute)
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Chairs:
Roger Norum (University of Oulu)
Stream:
Maps
Sessions:
Monday 14 September, 14:30-16:00, 16:30-18:00

Short Abstract:

This panel addresses novel understandings and uses of participatory mapmaking. Its papers speak to new forms of cartographic inclusion which listen to and speak on behalf of local communities as a means of de-colonising both our maps as well as the processes and epistemologies of making them.

Long Abstract

This panel addresses novel understandings and uses of participatory mapmaking. Over the past century, maps have almost invariably been based on remotely sensed visual data from satellites, with information occasionally sprinkled in from the odd local survey. These top-down modes of cartographic production have led to a concentration of quantified and visually determined phenomena while neglecting more subjective, qualitative and multi-sensorially experiential elements of the physical world. From a human perspective, the sheer scale of satellite data is incommensurate with human experience: to understand what space means to communities requires situated, personal, qualitative data. Participatory research methods have thus gained popularity because they address this lacuna, providing a means to incorporate the experience, attitudes and even ecological knowledge of local community members, empowering residents to envision sustainable futures of their social, cultural and ecological spaces (Warner 2015). For example, participatory mapping and the use of vernacular spatial knowledge is becoming increasingly relevant in court cases over issues of indigenous rights and land-use. The panel encourages papers that speak to epistemic trajectories providing alternative forms of data open to new hermeneutic thinking in which qualitative reflection confronts fixed coordinates and numeric GIS data. It thus calls for explicit linkages of anthropology and geography in cartographic work to align thinking about representation and textual (e.g. ethnographic) production and to hone the methodological apparatus for creating equitable representations of the planet. Contemporary cartographic anxieties (Billé 2016) suggest the need to de-colonise not just our maps but the processes and epistemologies of making them.

Accepted papers:

Authors:

Mike Evans (UBC Okanagan)
Jon Corbett (University of British Columbia Okanagan)
Ramon Lawrence (University of British Columbia)
Emilie Pigeon (University of Ottawa)
Nicholas Blackwell (UBC Okanagan)
Marcelle Gareau (UBC Okanagan)

Paper short abstract:

The Digital Archives Database Project created tools to preserve, serve, and render accessible information relevant to Metis ethno-history. Merging databases and linking families across varied and disparate archives is a core computational task that challenges the participatory values of the project.

Paper long abstract:

The 1982 Canadian Constitution recognised, but did not specifically define, Metis as one of three Indigenous Peoples of Canada; research into the sociological and geographical characteristics of Metis communities parallels intense legal and political activity by Metis leaders and activists. Linked to the vast trade networks of northcentral North America, and characterised by both voluntary and forced mobility, the shape of Metis geographies stand somewhat apart from other Indigenous peoples. Much ethno-historical work has focussed on how various archival sources (sacramental registries, historical petitions, fur trade records, and other materials) can elucidate the very complex relations of families and communities over the last two centuries, and these vast geographical spaces. Over the last several years the Digital Archives Database Project (DADP) has developed an increasingly sophisticated set of digital tools to preserve, serve, and render more easily accessible a wide and varied collection of digitized databases. Developing and implementing the mechanisms for effectively linking individuals and families across varied and often disparate archival material, merging databases accurately, and then rendering representations of these relations in historic and geographic terms is both computationally and conceptually challenging. To varied degrees the databases brought together by DADP were initially developed with participatory values and relationships at their core; mounting (and now merging) these databases through the DADP continues to be textured by participatory values. As the computing/research/data mobilization problems become increasingly complex, new tensions emerge. We explore these issues, and our attempts to engage in effective participatory relationships despite such challenges.

Author:

Jonathan Carruthers-Jones (University of Leeds)

Paper short abstract:

A key challenge for the representation and protection of wild spaces and species is the diverse range of meanings attached to the idea of the 'wild'. This research explored the relationship between established spatial representations of wildness and subjective human knowledges captured in situ.

Paper long abstract:

Participatory walks, including in situ questionnaires were carried out at points along transects traversing urban-wilderness gradients at study sites in the Scottish Highlands and French Pyrenees. A broad range of stakeholders (N = 71) were taken on these 'transect walks' and at pre-specified locations were asked a series of simple landscape assessment questions to quantify their perceptions of the immediate surrounding landscape in terms of biodiversity, naturalness, connectivity, wildness, landscape management and emotional experience. Participants were invited to make comments in order to explain their scores. After watching a short film on historical landscape change in the relevant study site an additional questionnaire collected data on attitudes to wild spaces and wild species reintroductions before and after the walk. In situ subjective human perception scores were directly compared with the existing GIS based landscape scale wildness maps. In situ landscape assessment scores and existing spatial representations of wildness were significantly correlated. Participant attitudes to the conservation of wild spaces in mountain areas also changed significantly after the walk. This integrated participatory mapping technique is designed to improve the quality of wildness mapping and support more inclusive and sustainable approaches to the conservation of wild spaces and species. Involving people in this kind of mapping accesses local knowledge, which cannot be 'seen' from satellites, into the creation of conservation tools such as wildness maps may be one way of resolving the conflict that we currently see around the wild land debate in Scotland and beyond.

Author:

Roger Norum (University of Oulu)

Paper short abstract:

Through a study of historical and contemporary Arctic mapmaking, this paper considers the current uses and future potentialities of cartographic representation involving participatory, sensory and immersive technologies for the study of humans, environments and a sustainable planet.

Paper long abstract:

This talk presents a study of contemporary and historical mapmaking in northern spaces. Over the past century or so, the mapping of the "remote" North has almost invariably been based on remotely sensed visual data from satellites, with the occasional added bit of biodiversity data. This has led to a concentration of visually represented human impacts while neglecting the particular ecological - and indeed human subjective - components of wildness, which are more markedly difficult to assess at scale. And yet, recent scholarship has also suggested that a wilderness experience is a multi-sensory and subjective component. Considering a collaborative project in Abisko, Northern Sweden, to creatively integrate into cartographic reproductions human experiential and phenomenological data related to being in nature, this talk speaks to an inclusion of the cartographic imagination into discussions on nature reading and nature writing, a process through which engineers, cartographers, scholars and laypeople can write human experience, perception and memory into cartographic production. Within contemporary processes of colonisation, de-colonisation, and scramble (Craciun 2009) for a post-colonial Arctic (Huggan and Jensen 2016), past and present cartographic anxieties speak to a need to de-colonise not just texts and maps but processes and epistemologies of writing. This multi-disciplinary talk explores the current uses and future potentialities of participatory, sensory and immersive technologies in the study of humans, environments and sustainabilities, and their representations.

Author:

Anna Lisa Ramella (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

This talk is an exploration into the orientation practices of fisherpeople at two different lakes in the Kenyan Rift Valley.

Paper long abstract:

This talk is a preliminary exploration into the orientation practices of fisherpeople at two different lakes in the Kenyan Rift Valley. As they navigate the vastness of the lake by boat or canoe to locate their fishing nets (in one case) or scan the lake from the shore for approaching hippo herds (in the other), local fisherpeople employ a combination of techniques to orient themselves. These range from landmarks along the shore to an intricate network of phone calls across the lake, and from floaters to spot nets to hardly recognisable tiny waves on the surface of the water. They are constantly adjusting their knowledge and practices to the changing water levels and moving artefacts (such as water hyacinth beds) within the lake. My current research in Kenya investigates how, through a combination of media practices, the lake surface becomes a sort of floating map that takes into account the surroundings of the lake as stable entities as well as localisations of changing on-water objects. By means of "(en)skilled vision" (Grasseni 2004) and cooperative networks, fisherpeople position themselves within a dynamic landscape.

Author:

Ina Goel (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

This paper shows how using participatory community maps enable in experiencing the 'urbanness' of a city (New Delhi, India) through the sociality and practices of precarious networks of queer minorities (Hijras, a 'third' gender community).

Paper long abstract:

Distinct from transgender and intersex identities, hijras, a 'third' gender community that is mostly physically castrated, occupy a unique and contradictory place in India. Hindu mythology deifies them, and British colonists demonized them. Caught between precarious webs of cultural stereotyping and postcolonial projects of biopolitical ordering, the hijra community typically live by seeking voluntary donations in exchange for blessing, performing at weddings and stag parties, begging, and engaging in sex work. Existing within ambiguous kinship networks governed by internal councils requiring patronage of senior gurus, hijras undergo mandatory apprenticeship to a symbolic 'house' society providing access to commune life. There is a division of territories between different hijra communes that is crucial in determining hijra livelihoods and their spaces of work in New Delhi - be it work done as ritual workers or sex workers. During fieldwork, by employing innovative tools of participatory research methods, mapping exercises with members from the hijra community revealed many aspects of their geographic exclusion, mostly through their vernacular spatial knowledge. This paper discusses those maps and shows how using participatory community maps enables in experiencing the 'urbanness' of a city, through the sociality and practices of precarious networks of queer minorities in India.