"If I make the changes they asked for, it'll become ugly and ineffective": Negotiations of design in participatory mapping

Authors: Amber Bosse*, University of Kentucky
Topics: Cartography, Applied Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: participatory mapping, PPGIS, PGIS, community mapping, cartography, map design
Session Type: Paper
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Decades of scholarship in both traditional and critical veins of cartography have stressed the importance of paying attention to map design, arguing that there is a direct link between the look of the map and the map’s subiquent “effectiveness” (Robinson 1953, Harley 1989, Pickles 1994, Wood 2010, Mocnick and Fairbairn 2017). Scholars and practitioners in participatory mapping and GIS are also very interested in questions of effectiveness, particularly in how it relates to the broader politics and barriers around participation (Peluso 1995, Schlossberg and Shuford 2005, Ghose 2003, Elwood 2006a, Elwood 2006b). However, by focusing on these processes which are integral to participatory mapping, what has been repeatedly overlooked are the products, or the maps and their subsequent design, that such engagements generate. This paper begins to bridge this gap between cartographic theory and participatory methods by examining the moments of representation and map design taking place in participatory mapping. Through a discussion of 21 semi-structured interviews with scholars and practitioners with a wide range of experience facilitating/partnering-in participatory mapping projects, I explore the multiple ways “participation” is often momentarily reconfigured around decisions regarding the look of the map. Not only do these moments have direct impacts on the potential effectiveness of the map, but they also require us to interrogate what attention to map effectiveness can achieve and for whom. As such, I conclude by exploring alternative metrics by which to evaluate effectiveness in both participatory and non-participatory produced maps.

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