Noticing, learning and feeling: more than positivist textualities of community-based participatory mapping

Authors: Heather Miles*, University of Manchester
Topics: Qualitative Research, Cartography, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: critical cartography, epistemology/ontology, postqualitative inquiry
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The full potential of map-making has been limited by prevailing positivist practices. In “qualitative GIS (Geographic Information System)”, for example, the “data collected” may be pluralistic, ambiguous and messy but it is still molded into the positivist Euclidean-Cartesian framework of GIS. Understanding mapping in a different way, as an activity situated along a continuum of practices that are focused to differing degrees on the “final product” versus the process, opens up a postqualitative and emergent approach of noticing, learning and feeling. This approach actively embraces and engages in epistemological/ontological multiplicity, ethics and politics. A final map product may not be the intended outcome at all!

To illustrate this I have reviewed community mapping guidance texts to explore different practices in the field. Mapping is carried out by lay communities for a range of applications, such as resisting harmful resource extraction or managing community assets. This review shows that the international and local community organizations who author guidance texts describe different more-than-representational ways of using mapping. They chart workflows that may give particular attention to dialogue and emotion, or experiment with roleplaying, during the map-making process. Group decision-making on mapping formats inherently encourages dialogue about different ways of knowing.

These workflows can be used as modes of inquiry by academic researchers, as well as lay communities. Geographers have a special relationship with mapping and are uniquely positioned to critically explore and provide practical advice on this processual deployment of mapping.

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