Community Mapping: FROM REPRESENTATION TO ACTION

Symposium:


Session Title:

  • Locative Media and Mapping

Presentation Title:

  • Community Mapping: FROM REPRESENTATION TO ACTION

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Abstract:

  • Keywords: community mapping, sense of place, psychogeography, site-specific art, relational aesthetics, locative media, GPS, socially-engaged art.

    The act of mapping can either preserve the status quo or catalyse change.

    A subset of mapping, community mapping, can be defined as a place-based approach that supports participatory action at the community level. It inverts the traditional ‘top-down’ approach to mapping by:

    1. incorporating local knowledge
    2. integrating and contextualising spatial information
    3. allowing participants to dynamically interact with input and analyse alternatives
    4. empowering individuals and groups

    This paper reports on community mapping and discusses localised mapping efforts around the world. Groups already taking advantage of these mapping strategies include small scale farmers in Tanzania; urban neighborhoods in India, China, and the US; and indigenous communities in the Australian outback, the American Southwest, and the Congo. My work linking schools and communities along the length of the Colorado River will be discussed.

    I review mapmaking tactics from the hand-made to the high-tech, with emphasis on projects utilising ‘bottom up’ data-harvesting such as ‘participatory GIS,’ crowd-sourcing, and ‘user-centric’ locative technologies.

    Increasingly, community mapping is being used for coordinating watershed audits, environmental protection and restoration, tracking human health trends, and poverty alleviation projects seeking to comply with international law for human rights. It can aid neighborhood groups in formulating action agendas and making their case to elected officials and policymakers. It can reveal the stories of place that remain invisible to the casual observer.

    Why should this be of interest to the ISEA community?

    Putting mapping tools in the hands of artists helps to capture the complexity of a given place—including nuanced descriptions of physical settings, evidence of lived experience, and creative interactions with communities. Technologically empowered artists, partnered with specialists from a variety of fields, can build on the platform of a ‘site-specific aesthetic’ towards ethically-based action.

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