Exploring Community Geography as a Research Method During the 2017 Kenya General Election

Authors: Shadrock Roberts*, Clark University, Lara S. G. Piccolo, The Open University, Monica Nthiga, Ushahidi
Topics: Applied Geography, Third World
Keywords: community geography, community informatics, technology, elections, crowdsourcing, Kenya
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Capitol Ballroom 1, Hyatt Regency, Fourth Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As the sub-field of community geography continues to develop as a form of research praxis, we offer an example of a project in which geographers, computer scientists, and practitioners of crowdsourcing collaborated to better understand – and develop – open-source technology for community generated mapping to reduce incidents of violence during elections. Our paper contributes to questions about the nature of praxis in community geography by presenting an exploratory analysis of “Uchaguzi”: an effort to crowdsource election monitoring during the 2017 Kenya general election, which resulted in community-generated data, maps, and analysis meant to improve transparency and promote peace during a historically contentious event in the lives of Kenyans. Our involvement in Uchaguzi, as a combination of academic researchers and practitioners funded to develop new technologies, provides a model for understanding issues specific to the community geography, where diverse roles and expectations create challenges and opportunities to work towards solutions for pressing social problems.

We will examine data and maps created as part of Uchaguzi in tandem with a collection of Twitter data to better understand how different communities, technologies, and practices represent spatial knowledge and the role of technology in mediating community geography. Our paper will also connect to other disciplines and fields of study that overlap considerably with community geography. Specifically, we engage with Community Informatics and Human Computer Interaction with the intention of unifying different bodies of literature that share many of the same concerns and goals while expanding our collective methodological toolbox.

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