12 May, 2011
GIS Research UK (GISRUK) is a long running conference series, and the 2011 instalment was hosted by the University of Portsmouth at the end of April.
During the conference, I was asked to give a keynote talk about Participatory GIS. I decided to cover the background of Participatory GIS in the mid-1990s, and the transition to more advanced Web Mapping applications from the mid-2000s. Of special importance are the systems that allow user-generated content, and the geographical types of systems that are now leading to the generation of Volunteer Geographic Information (VGI).
The next part of the talk focused on Citizen Science, culminating with the ideas that are the basis for Extreme Citizen Science.
Interestingly, as in previous presentations, one of the common questions about Citizen Science came up. Professional scientists seem to have a problem with the suggestion that citizens are as capable as scientists in data collection and analysis. While there is an acceptance about the concept, the idea that participants can suggest problems, collect data rigorously and analyse it seems to be too radical – or worrying.
What is important to understand is that the ideas of Extreme Citizen Science are not about replacing the role of scientists, but are a call to rethink the role of the participants and the scientists in cases where Citizen Science is used. It is a way to consider science as a collaborative process of learning and exploration of issues. My own experience is that participants have a lot of respect for the knowledge of the scientists, as long as the scientists have a lot of respect for the knowledge and ability of the participants. The participants would like to learn more about the topic that they are exploring and are keen to know: ‘what does the data that I collected mean?’ At the same time, some of the participants can become very serious in terms of data collection, reading about the specific issues and using the resources that are available online today to learn more. At some point, they are becoming knowledgeable participants and it is worth seeing them as such.
The slides below were used for this talk, and include links to the relevant literature.
22 June, 2008
The Mapping for Sustainable Communities seminar that was organised by myself together with London 21, on the 17th June, was a fantastic event that I thoroughly enjoyed. With over 100 participants, coming from academia, practice and from communities across London and further afield, it was a unique opportunity for discussion between these 3 groups which, unfortunately, is rare.
The day was fairly intensive with a series of presentations from a wide range of speakers, providing a range of views and opinions. At lunch, and especially during the afternoon workshops, there was more time for discussion and exchange of experiences. It was very satisfying to see people stand and discuss the various aspects of participatory and community mapping during the reception at the end of the day, after a heavy day of listening and talking about these issues.
The seminar covered the whole range of technical options – from paper to 3D computer mapping. It also covered various views – from the more theoretical to the practical.
As a conclusion from the day, it is clear that there is a good potential for community and participatory mapping in many aspects of life in the UK. Particpatory mapping can we be used to celebrate the wonder of places, find about their history, or identify issues that are of concern to the community. We need to take into account the local organisational and governance structures, and be sensitive to the needs of the communities within which we operate. There is an ethical dimension that should not be overlooked, but it is important to find the cases where we can make an impact with these tools and use them to make places more sustainable.
In case that you have missed the seminar, or would like to see the presentations from it, here is the outline of the day, with a link to the presentations on SlideShare:
- Muki Haklay (UCL) – Participatory mapping: a conceptual framework & Introduction to the day
- Steve Cinderby (SEI York) – GIS for Participation (GIS-P) methodology
- Duncan Fuller (Northumbria University) – Participatory Geographies and the role of mapping
- Kieron Stanley (Environment Agency) – How can we map Cumulative Impacts and aspects of environmental inequalities?
- Panel Discussion: between participation and technology – The paner included 4 short presentations: Richard Kingston (The University of Manchester) discussed aspects of the digital divide; Sophie Des Clare (UCL) talked about participatory mapping in the marine environment; Andrea Berardi (Open University) focus on the aspects of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ brain thinking for participation; and Louise Francis (London 21) highlighted the benefits of paper based mapping when combined with GIS analysis.
- Chris Church (London 21) – Introduce some of the practical aspects of community mapping
- Chris Perkins (The University of Manchester) – Community mapping with focus on cartographical and social aspects
- Colleen Whitaker (London 21) – Community mapping as a tool to identify local environmental issues and concerns
- Mike Batty (UCL) – Participation through Online Technologies: Experiences with 3D-GIS, Second Life and Multimedia in London (Mike’s presentation was too interactive – so for more information about the issues that he presented, see the CASA website)
- Community Showcase, where five of the communities that we are working with talked about their experiences.