Engaging With the Participatory Geoweb: Experiential Learning From Practice

Engaging With the Participatory Geoweb: Experiential Learning From Practice

Jon M. Corbett (University of British Columbia, Canada) and Logan Cochrane (University of British Columbia, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2446-5.ch001
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Maps were historically used as tools of the elite to maintain and expand power and control. The development of participatory mapmaking and the geoweb have opened new avenues for broader citizen engagement and therefore challenge traditional power dynamics. This chapter analyzes three examples and presents experiential learning around participatory processes and VGI contributions. Specifically we explore who is contributing their information, what are their motivations and incentives, in what ways do users interact with available technologies, and how is this contributing to change? We conclude by discussing the roles of motivations, the type of contribution, organizational capacity and leadership, and objectives. In comparing and contrasting these case studies we examine the individual and organizational dynamics of engagement, and how this can better inform the discourse about VGI.
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Background: Contextualizing Vgi

The contributions made by individuals in participatory mapping projects occur within a broader trend wherein citizens around the world want to voice their opinions and have their concerns acted upon (e.g. McGee, Edwards, Minkley, Pegus & Brock, 2015; World Bank, 2014; 2016). In some instances, these are activities undertaken alongside government initiatives, such as community members informing development planning and natural resource management (Brown, 2006; Brown & Reed, 2009; 2012; Brown & Weber, 2013a; 2013b). However, the needs and priorities of community members who provide VGI and government officials receiving this input may not align (Brandeis & Nyerges, 2015), resulting in a lack of interest and limited impact (Brown, 2012). At the other end of the spectrum, VGI can be a part of the process that challenges and contests government, including re-mapping resources to challenge ownership (Peluso, 1995) and territorial control (Quiquivix, 2014). The choices embedded within maps have multiple impacts creating layers of complexity and dilemmas related to whose worldviews and priorities are conveyed in the process (Hodgson & Schroeder, 2002; Wainwright & Bryan, 2009). It is within this challenging change space that VGI is best engaged with. Participatory mapping and VGI offer opportunities for enhanced citizen engagement as well as a means to influence (or compel) transparency and accountability of decisions that affect the public. At the same time, the limitations and the potential for using these tools to co-opt public opinion or be mechanisms of exclusion must also be considered.

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