U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

The spatial knowledge politics of crisis mapping for community development

Brandusescu, Ana, Sieber, RenéeE.
GeoJournal 2018 v.83 no.3 pp. 509-524
North Americans, community development, disasters, politics, Canada
Crisis mapping, the combination of software-as-a-service mapping and reporting aimed at large numbers of individuals, is proposed for chronic problems as well as acute issues; it is universalized for global south disasters as well as global north community development. It supposedly affords a new spatial knowledge politics (SKP) that unfolds in local communities. We tested the role of spatial knowledge politics in crisis mapping for community development by co-developing, with local organizations, four applications based on the prominent mapping-telecommunications crisis platform, Crowdmap by Ushahidi. We assessed crisis mapping’s effectiveness in North American community based activities in Francophone and Anglophone Canada. We found persistent technical challenges, consistent with the literature, although crisis mapping allowed increased opportunities for the developer to insert their knowledge. Analysis of the contributions illustrated the use of crisis mapping to report on place-based features that enabled contributors to connect, but also limited the ability to express location and place in 160 characters. It revealed tensions in conceptualization of local spatial knowledge politics as witness versus political influence. Crisis mapping could simultaneously aid and disrupt traditional place-based politics of community based organizations. Our critique serves as a test of crisis mapping’s universality for other fields and its promise of a new SKP.