Participatory mapping as a social digital tool

Blog by María de los Ángeles Briones: “…we will use 14 different examples from different continents and contexts to explore the goals and methods used for participatory mapping as a social digital tool. Despite looking very different and coming from a range of cultural backgrounds, there are a number of similarities in these different case studies.

Although the examples have different goals, we have identified four main focus areas: activism, conviviality, networking and urban planning. More localised mapping projects often had a focus on activism. We also see from that maps are not isolated tools, they are complementary to work with other communication tools and platforms.

The internet has transformed communications and networks across the globe – allowing for interconnectivity and scalability of information among and between different groups of society. This allows voices, regardless of their location, to be amplified and listened to by many other voices achieving collective goals. This has great potential in a global world where it is evident that top-down initiatives are not enough to handle many of the social needs that local people experience. However, though the internet makes sharing and collaborating between people easier, offline maps are still valuable, as shown in some of our examples.

The similarity between the different maps that we explored is that they are social digital tools. They are social because they are related to projects that are seeking to solve social needs; and they are digital because they are based on digital platforms that permit them to be alive, spread, shared and used. These characteristics also refer to their function and design.

A tool can be defined as a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function. So when we speak of a tool there are four things involved: an actor, an object, a function and a purpose. Just as a hammer is a tool that a carpenter (actor) use to hammer nails (function) and thus build something (purpose) we understand that social tools are used by one or more people for taking actions where the final objective is to meet a social need…(More)”.

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