3Cs was honored to participate in theEncuentro de Geografías Críticas y Autónomas [Critical and Autonomous Geographies Encounter] in Ecuador earlier this year. There we were introduced to a vibrant autonomous geography and cartography movement from across Latin America.
We were hosted by the Critical Geography Collective of Ecuador, which has produced an impressive range of maps with different social movements across Ecuador (related to mining, indigenous land struggles, violence against women, and many other crucial struggles) and a number of pamphlets on critical geography and mapping. (For more about the Collective in English, see their entry in This Is Not An Atlas).
Liz from 3Cs recently participated in a the Community Mapping of Miles Platting in Manchester in collaboration with the University of Sheffield Urban Institute’s “Whose Knowledge Matters?” Project and the Manchester Community Grocer. The process involved a series of workshops with residents of the neighborhood of Miles Platting about how urban redevelopment projects are shaping their neighborhood and the lasting impacts of austerity. The map is currently on display at the Manchester Central Library as part of the Manchester Histories Festival. Here she shares a few reflections from her experience:
functions as collective research. Making
the Community Map of Miles Platting functioned as a form of
collective research in various ways. First, it allowed different
residents to share the knowledge they already have based on their
everyday life and experiences living in Miles Platting. Of
course these experiences differ, based on how long people had lived
in the neighborhood, their age, gender, race, ethnicity, education
level, whether they have children or sick or elderly residents to
care for, etc. etc. The
first workshop served as a space to share those experiences, without
attempting to come up with one dominant narrative, and then to
identify common themes and concerns
that would then serve as the basis for the icon-stickers we used in
the following workshops. Second,
the mapping also allowed us to identify new questions and things that
were unknown: Who
owns that plot of land? What are they building there? What
will happen to that abandoned building? Where is the new park they
promised us? Identifying these questions served as the basis for
further research and also allowed us to question why it was that
neighborhood residents didn’t have access to this information. Why,
despite promises of consultation and participatory planning
processes, were residents not only being left out of decision-making
processes, but also not even able to access information about what
was going on? Thus we decided to use blue stickers to indicate all of
these “mystery spaces” on the map.
How do we approach ‘big data’ critically? What is to be done with ‘big data’?
There is a need for a critical data studies
As the public discourse around data turns from hubristic claims to existing, empirical results, it’s become nearly as easy to bash ‘big data’ as to hype it (Carr 2014; Marcus and Davis 2014; Harford 2014; Podesta 2014). Geographers are intimately involved with this recent rise of data. Most digital information now contains some spatial component (Hahmann and Burghardt 2013) and geographers are contributing tools (Haklay and Weber 2008), maps (Zook and Poorthius 2014), and methods (Tsou et al. 2014) to the rising tide of quantification. Critiques of ‘big data’ thus far offer keen insight and acerbic wit, but remain piecemeal and disconnected. ‘Big data’s’ successes or failures as a tool are judged (K.N.C. 2014), or it is examined from a specific perspective, such as its role in surveillance (Crampton et al. 2014). Recently, voices in critical geography have raised the call for a systemic approach to data criticisms, a critical data studies (Dalton and Thatcher 2014; Graham 2014; Kitchin 2014). This post presents seven key provocations we see as drivers of a comprehensive critique of the new regimes of data, ‘big’ or not. We focus on why a critical approach is needed, what it may offer, and some idea of what it could look like.
Summary: Tim shares his experiences of militant research with university workers and students, making disOrientation Guides, and the importance of starting from your own position for building solidarity. Reflecting on the Queen Mary Counter/mapping project and community-based cartography, he discusses the challenges of map-making collectively, as well as the benefits of the process for building a plane of commonality for struggles. Against the individualizing and recuperative functions of academia, he shares some thoughts on how we can better traverse the tensions our movements face across the boundaries of universities and communities.