DIY streetview mapping and the contested politics and possibilities of visibility

Authors: Jonathan Cinnamon*, University of Exeter
Topics: Urban Geography, Cartography, Africa
Keywords: mapping, informality, streetview, justice, planning
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Iberville, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Google StreetView project is both a mirror of nature and a mirror of our nature, reflecting our built and natural environments in immersive detail while also reflecting our propensity to exclude and marginalize. The rapid, global expansion of StreetView imagery has been astonishing; many locations have been updated multiple times, indoor coverage is available, and users can now explore remote or off-street spaces including national parks, the South Pole, the Great Barrier Reef, and the International Space Station. These recent inclusions suggest a point of saturation, but in reality the project’s coverage is highly uneven, notably patchy or non-existent in less capitalized or culturally-significant spaces worldwide. As part of a larger project exploring the complex and contested geographies of life in an informal settlement in Johannesburg, set against a backdrop of socio-spatial injustice and the intransigence of apartheid spatial planning in South Africa, this paper explores the practical, ethical, and political dimensions of a DIY streetview project in Kya Sands, an underserviced shack settlement of approximately 20,000 people. Utilizing novel consumer grade 360-degree imaging hardware and software within a countermapping tradition, the project demonstrates the potential of these technologies for developing grassroots, immersive, and ocular-centric cartographies from street level, which in this case might be a powerful tool to contest the inadequacy of service delivery. The paper considers the added affordances of these technologies for producing counterhegemonic urban visualities, as well as the site-specific and more general ethical and political concerns of an evolving form of cartovisual representation.

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