GIS (Geospatial Informative System) is a specific type of information system through which spatial data is produced, managed and analysed. It associates alphanumeric description to every geographical data, which allows a more critical vision than traditional mapping. With PGIS (Participatory Geospatial Informative System), the geographical knowledge become a practical tool fundamental for interdisciplinary work with many disciplines: sociology, anthropology, environmental sciences, etc but also engaging many different actors and in particular citizens. It can enhance local knowledge for their better use in a given context. In that sense, mapping become an active tool: it generates knowledge, empower and can represent and promote social change.
Geographical representations led by participatory mapping allow to study but also communicate complex social phenomenon such as exclusion, poverty, livelihood, conflicts, etc. The purpose of the tool is to redefine the concept of map from a static vision to a integrated and interactive vision that engaged different subjects.
From a more technical perspective, GIS store information and data, sort them into a series of thematic layers, joined by their geographical location and so the basic mapping goal is to provide:
- Descriptions of geographic phenomenon
- Spatial and non spatial information
- Map features like Point, Line, & Polygon
GIS technology allowed the combination of scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge and transform the relations between who is doing the map and who is looking at it. The GIS is extremely useful also for non profit sector as well as social and environmental struggles as it helps to represent issues and solutions, collect and give visibility to informations that otherwise could remain invisible. In particular, PGIS – Participative Geospatial Informative System are of fundamental use for active citizenship activities. Critical mapping for example can be used to gather local knowledge and allow citizens and local communities to represent their environment (Pickles, 1991, 1995).
GIS can be the instrument through which local communities can retake the power of creating a representation of their territory, especially to claim the fundamental right to the land and its use as form of pacific resistance to the power of authorities. In this case mapping become an act of territorial resistance.
Example of implentation
GIS can be used to:
- Manage and analyze a lot of issues in our day-to-day life;
- Monitor Environmental Conflict ;
- Monitor through participation environmental conditions, health, biodiversity, etc;
- Empower communities, reinforce social cohesion;
- Citizens mapping: for example to promote and support community-based initiatives towards building more sustainable communities through the use of maps and geographic information.
An example of the use of GIS in environmental conflicts mapping is the Environmental Justice Altlas (EJATLAS). It is a geo referenced database collecting information on environmental conflicts around the world, their causes, effects, actors involved, etc. The tools not only mobilises many various actors in the knowledge gathering processes but it also allows to put in connection the many comunities invovled in similar environmental issues and to narrate differently environmental criticalities. It allow a diffused documentation production process, enhance conflict visibility and support the claims against contaminating activities and phenomenon.
Session “Mapping and GIS for climate justice”
Manuel Bayon – Colectivo de Geografía Crítica
Mapping and GIS for climate justice – Download