chapter  7
18 Pages

Whose Space? Mapping, Power and Ethics

Local people’s abilities to make maps only became widely known and facilitated in the early 1990s. In recent years, changes have been rapid in both participatory methodologies and spatial information technologies (SITs). The phenomenal spread of participatory mapping has manifested in many variants and applications in natural resource management and other domains. The medium and means of mapping, whether ground, paper or Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PGIS), and the style and mode of facilitation affect who takes part, the nature of outcomes and power relationships. Cartographic maps and SITs can tend to serve the state and outside interests, disempowering and dispossessing local people. PRA/PLA and spatial information technologies have combined as a form of counter mapping to reverse and prevent this, empowering minority groups and those traditionally excluded from spatial decision-making. Much depends on the behaviour, attitudes and commitment of the facilitators who are technology intermediaries, and on who controls the process. Ethical issues present dilemmas with questions of empowerment, ownership and use of maps. Questions to be asked, again and again, are: ‘Who is empowered and who is disempowered?’ and ‘Who gains and who loses?’