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Author:Kimberley Coles (University of Redlands)
Paper short abstract:
This paper presents a case of an ethnographic foray into GIS through the case of a mapping pilot program created as part of a Community Driven Development poverty alleviation program by a GIS-trained ethnographer. The paper discusses how ethnography complicated the GIS at all stages of the project.
Paper long abstract:
Maps and geographic information are often touted as powerful tools for decision-making due to their ability to visualize spatial distributions across space/territory. However, there is an implicit assumption that the decision-makers are requesting maps and geographic visualizations. How do maps assist decision-making in situations marked by community decision-making processes, financial and social marginalization, and low education levels? This paper presents a case of an ethnographic foray into GIS through the case of a mapping pilot program - MapAtlas - created as part of a Community Driven Development (CDD) poverty alleviation program in the Philippines by a GIS-trained ethnographer. Designed to assist community volunteers in their decision-making processes, MapAtlas affected decision-making in an uneven manner. Through examination of spatial literacy, data gaps and rejections, and the politics of agency, the paper demonstrates the need to carefully consider the role and relationship of maps in development projects and other policy interventions, above and beyond a map's presumed role as an informational artifact or document. The combination of GIS and ethnographic expertise was also uneven, marked by limitations and uncertainty, but informative to both in furthering an understanding of the politics of knowledge and its place in decision-making for both the policy-implementers and the scholar.
Ethnography and GIS