Turning the Spotlight on the Crowd: Examining the Participatory Ethics and Practices of Crisis Mapping

  • Christian Bittner Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
  • Boris Michel Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
  • Cate Turk Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Keywords: Geoweb, participation, mapping, emergencies

Abstract

'Crisis maps' are crowd sourced web 2.0 maps designed to respond to natural disasters and escalating political conflicts. They are archetypal web 2.0 maps: interactive, dynamic, public, fuse together different information streams, and can employ both custom-built professional platforms and homemade software. Crisis maps work by georeferencing events that occur throughout a crisis, such as reports of damage, needs and casualties or protests, fights and arrests. Data sources are diverse and range from news from traditional media outlets and NGO press releases to geotagged Twitter reports, YouTube videos or SMS text messages. Hence, at least potentially, any person connected by mobile phone or internet can participate in the generation of crisis maps. Crisis maps appeal explicitly to a participatory ethic in order to help those in need. Drawing upon an explorative sample of crisis maps, this paper shines a critical spotlight on notions of participation in crisis mapping discourses, looking at different sorts of crowds participating; the rhetoric that draws them in; and the practical ways in which people contribute to the maps. The paper concludes by questioning imaginations of crisis maps as a participatory bottom-up representation of ‘ordinary voices’ on the ground.

Author Biographies

Christian Bittner, Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Geography

Postgraduate Researcher

Boris Michel, Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Geography

Postdoctoral Researcher

Cate Turk, Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Geography

Postgraduate Researcher

Published
2016-03-27
How to Cite
Bittner, C., Michel, B., & Turk, C. (2016). Turning the Spotlight on the Crowd: Examining the Participatory Ethics and Practices of Crisis Mapping. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 15(1), 207-229. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1238