Participatory Mapping


Definition


Participatory mapping is a method that utilizes community knowledge to produce a spatial representation of a given area. During the research process, the investigator will ask members of the local population to draw (or annotate) maps to describe landscapes, territorial or boundary markers, resources, etc.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] This technique allows communities to identity cultural and environmental aspects that are important to them, such as natural resources, public service buildings, neighborhoods, boundaries, etc. By allowing people the opportunity to identity key communal features, a researcher can learn about the ways their participants see the world and how they fit in it.

Relevant Characteristics


Participatory mapping can be conducted with an individual or a group, depending on the aims of the research project. If the technique is being executed within a group, discussion is an essential element of this methodology.This method can be strengthened in conjunction with different interview styles, regardless of the number of participants, since interviews can help elicit the information that you are looking for in the mapping exercise. It also pairs well with policy work because the maps can be used to influence policies.[6] [7] [8]


The use of participatory mapping often relies on the idea that local people often have deeper, detailed knowledge about their local landscape.[9] Researchers may uncover that participants have limited or no knowledge of the geographic landscapes, which is equally important to understanding the socio-political landscape of the population being studied.
The act of participating in the mapping exercise can elicit important information about “identities, social relations, landscape, and power in places on the margins” (Sletto 2009:444). Thus, analyzing the activities and interactions that occur during the facilitation of the mapping exercise is just as important as analyzing the data that are collected through the maps.

Maps are typically two-dimensional, although a more limited third dimension can be created through layering the map. For example, a street map may be overlain with a layer depicting pedestrian traffic flows, features of interest, locations of crossings, etc. If the project has the wherewithal to incorporate computers, there are proprietary or open-source software suits to assist in the creation and editing of multi-layered maps.

“Method Made Easy”


Depending on the funding, access, and training of the project and its participants, maps can vary in complexity. As the aforementioned section [Relevant Characters] stated, computer programs can be utilized to create maps. Maps produced using a pen/pencil and paper, as well as chalk, charcoal, or a stick to make markings on walls, sidewalks, or the ground can be equally as effective and satisfactory to the research project as well. The subsequent section will outline map production with the latter listed materials:

  • Required materials
  1. Maps of area under consideration
  2. Colored markers, push-pins, or other materials for mark-up/annotation
  3. Camera or sketchpad to record the map once finished
  • Method Made Easy
  1. Once the research project and area are establish, locate participants and explain methods and purpose of the project. Encourage participants to ask questions if they are unsure of any element of the project. Emphasize that participation is optional.
  2. After members have an understanding of the project and have consented to participate, provide them with copies of maps, and materials for annotation and mark-up. Push-pins and sticky notes make good choices, as they are easily removable and cause minimal damage to the original map. Note: Some maps may be considered sensitive or controlled information by certain governments, and therefore may be difficult to obtain
  3. Ask participants to locate features of interest in their community. In this step, it is important to allow your participants to map the area as they understand it without influence from other maps or from the researcher. Probe if necessary; however, keep suggestions to a minimum.
  4. If you are conducting a group mapping exercise, then have the participants come together as a group with the mapping materials (paper and pencils or sticks in the dirt) and work together as a team to create a joint map of the area that marks the requested features. Note: avoid cluttering up the map with too many features.

Advantages


Participatory mapping allows for “counter-mapping,” which can challenge previously produced maps and boundaries, especially products and representations imposed by elites.[10] These criticisms sought to demonstrate how maps often act to represent the world in ways that privilege very particular ways of viewing the world, thus reinforcing certain power relations.” [11]
This method shows how space is political and there are multicultural forms of space/mapping. Depending on the group, what is shown on the map “pluricultural vision of national space” (Herlihy and Knapp 2003:306). It can be reveal nuances about power structures, class, or traditional ties to land, as well as identify group’s perceived resources, sacred sites, land tenure, or other culturally-defined spaces. It can be done at different scales–from small areas (city blocks, neighborhoods, villages) to large, regional areas (regional resources, hunting grounds, ancestral grounds).

Participatory mapping is a fun and low-pressure activity that creates a great, light atmosphere that can open up dialogue and help the participants feel comfortable with the researchers. Using participatory mapping can open up dialogue about more sensitive topics such as the fear of going places, and frustrations about access to locations/resources.
This method allows for intersectionality and can include both male and female participants voices, as well as leaders in the community and non-leaders in the community, which can be especially important when some members of the population are less represented or less able to participate in dialogue about the community (Sletto 2009:443) Participatory mapping can help researchers map inaccessible areas. For example, working with indigenous groups can allow researcher map parts of the Darien Jungle in southern Panama.

This method offers inexpensive options that are not very reliant on technology. These options are flexible and intuitive for non-expert users. This method also results an immediate final product, which offers a tangible alternative to complement other methodologies, such as interviews.

Limitations


Participatory mapping has many advantages; but like any method, it is not without its limitations.
Researchers can easily privilege some members or groups over others. The production of these maps have the potential to ignore, mask, and perpetuate pre-existing, negative power relationships within communities as much as they can reveal power dynamics. Likewise, these project have potential to produce new tensions within the community and between the community and other political entities.

Maps can become confusing, which may result in a loss of research-worthy data. For example, if too many features are identified, maps can become cluttered and confusing. Although interviews are not a fundamental necessity to this method, the maps can be very confusing or points that the participants make can seem meaningless without the additional qualitative data.

Although there is a tangible product to this method, these maps are not as useful in cases or projects where spatial accuracy is important. Annotated information including on the maps may be difficult (or in some cases impossible) to transpose onto other maps. Accurate maps may be difficult to obtain in areas where such information is controlled or sensitive.

In order for the maps to be the most useful, the researcher needs to know the population and their needs. Otherwise, it is difficult to suggest important places to draw and can also create hesitation among participants to draw things. (E.g. Populations that are in “hiding” like undocumented.)
If participants do not know how to read a map, they can have difficulty creating a map of their own. So, in this case, it is important to reassure the participants that the accuracy of the map is not the main goal of the research (if it is not), and any data they can provide will be helpful in understanding the knowledge of the population about their local landscape.

Analysis


Free-drawn maps may be compared to find recurring features of interest or themes. Prepared maps, especially topographic, zoning, or road maps, are more appropriate for situations requiring attention to distance, similarity or difference in environment (natural as well as built), or comparison of existing features.
Participatory mapping strives to gather local perceptions and representations of their spatial surroundings. As a result, the analyses of data from participatory mapping can be seen as existing at two different dimensions: local and meta-. Local perspectives are gained through participatory mapping, since local residents are the ones constructing the map(s). This tool, may also allow them to see what issues their community face, but allows them to “do the analysis and presentations, to plan and to own the outcome.”[12] Further, as locals own the information it allows them to “identify the priorities.”[13] Metadata can also be gained through this method and reveal hegemonic and other social structures.


Depending on the goals of the research, data collected through participatory mapping can be analyzed through “topographic maps, administrative boundaries, land/forest cover, land/forest use status, and official spatial planning boundaries” (Dennis 2005:474-475; Cronkleton 2010:71) and GIS technologies such as Landsat TM, Landsat Multi Spectral Scanner, SPOT XS, Spot Multispectral (Dennis 2005:472, 475). It also uses general image processing and classification through PC ER Mapper and ESRI PC ArcView (Dennis 2005: 475).
Participant observation during the participatory mapping exercises can reveal which resources or landmarks are discussed more frequently than others, what emotions are attached to different resources and landmarks, and how frequently certain resources or landmarks are discussed. In the case of undocumented immigrants, it can also reveal what resources are mentioned with fear and anxiety or associated with negative emotions. During group participatory mapping activities: participant observation reveals gender relations, social hierarchies, and general social networking relationships within group. Analysis of participant-created maps can show hubs of resources that are used by the population, which can reveal why certain resources are not used (if they are outside of the general hub/location of resource usage).

Method in Context


Participatory mapping is a visual/art-based method drawing on the artistic action involved in map creation and the performance associated with creating and discussing the landscapes that are represented on the map (Sletto 2009:454, 463). This method can be highly technical when paired with GIS other forms of technologically based mapping involving topography.[14] [15]
This method has a deep history in anthropology used to understand indigenous lands in comparison to colonial claims.[16] [17] Anthropologists began utilizing this method heavily in the 1990s to understand indigenous land claims. Participatory mapping helps anthropologists understand the intersection of social, political, and economic aspects in association with indigenous lands and natural resource issues. Western states and governments have largely run maps; participatory mapping allows for marginalized groups (indigenous, migrants, etc.) to place themselves on the map and represent themselves and their needs politically (Herlihy and Knapp 2003:328).

Online Resources


International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Good practices in participatory mapping:
Available online: http://ict4peace.org/pubs/PM_web.pdf

Knowledge and cultural transmission in Kenyan participatory mapping:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GS4PV4RdUQc

Mapping for Rights:
http://www.mappingforrights.org/participatory_mapping


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)
Stakeholder Engagement Strategies for Participatory Mapping. NOAA Coastal Services Center. Available online: http://www.csc.noaa.gov/publications/

Rainforest Foundation,
“How to Map, Part 1: Mapping for Rights”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRhYktaBWYg

Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA):
Introduction of the Training Kit “Participatory Spatial Information and Communication Mapping
http://vimeo.com/6537196

Further Reading


Ahorlu, C. K., Koram, K. A., Weiss, M. G.
2007 Children, Pregnant Women And The Culture Of Malaria In Two Rural Communities Of Ghana. Anthropology And Medicine. 14(2):167 – 181

Chirowodza, Admire, et al.
2009 Using participatory methods and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to prepare for an HIVcommunity-based trial in Vulindlela, South Africa. (Project Accept–HPTN 043). Journal of Community Psychology 37(1): 41-57. Available online: http://globalhealth.med.ucla.edu/publications/chirowodza.pdf

Crane, Julia G., and Michael V. Angrosino
1992 Making Maps. In Field Projects in Anthropology: a Student Handbook, pp. 31-43. Waveland Press, Inc.: Prospect Heights, IL.

Di Gessa, Stefano
2008 Participatory Mapping as a Tool for Empowerment: experience and lessons learned from the International Land Consultancy (ILC) network. Available online: http://www.landcoalition.org/pdf/08_ILC_Participatory_Mapping_Low.pdf

Dongus, S. Et Al.
2007 Participatory Mapping Of Target Areas To Enable Operational Larval Source Management To Suppress Malaria Vector Mosquitoes In Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. International Journal Of Health Geographics. 6:37

Haag, F., Hajdu, F.
2005 Perspectives On Local Environmental Security, Exemplified By A Rural South African Village. Environmental Management 36 (4):483 - 494

Mukherjee, Neela
2002 Participatory Learning and Action: With 100 Field Methods. New Delhi: Concept Publishing

Natcher, D. C.
2004 Implications Of Fire Policy On Native Land Use In The Yukon Flats, Alaska. Human Ecology. 32 (4):421 - 441

Schensul, Jean J., et al.
1999 Ethnographer's Toolkit, Volume 4: mapping social networks, spatial data, and hidden populations. AltaMira Press: Walnut Creek, CA.

Smith, Derek A.
2003 Participatory Mapping of Community Lands and Hunting Yields among the Bugle of Western Panama. Human Organization. 62(4): 332-343.


References


  1. ^ Cronkleton, P. Et Al.
    2010 Social Geomatics: Participatory Forest Mapping To Mediate Resource Conflict In The Bolivian Amazon. Human Ecology. 38:65 - 76
  2. ^ Dennis, R. A. Et Al.
    2005 Fire, People And Pixels: Linking Social Science And Remote Sensing To Understand Underlying Causes And Impacts Of Fires In Indonesia. Human Ecology. 33 (4):465 - 504
  3. ^ Herlihy, Peter H.
    2003. Participatory Research Mapping of Indigenous Lands in Darien, Panama. Human Organization. 62(4): 315-331
  4. ^ Herlihy, P. H., Knapp, G.
    2003 Maps Of, By, And For The Peoples Of Latin America. Human Organization. 62(4):303 – 314
  5. ^ Kitchin, Rob
    2002 Participatory Mapping of Disabled Access. Cartographic Perspectives 41:44-54.
  6. ^




    Dennis, R. A. Et Al.
    2005 Fire, People And Pixels: Linking Social Science And Remote Sensing To Understand Underlying Causes And Impacts Of Fires In Indonesia. Human Ecology. 33 (4):465 - 504
  7. ^ Herlihy, Peter H.
    2003. Participatory Research Mapping of Indigenous Lands in Darien, Panama. Human Organization. 62(4): 315-331
  8. ^ Herlihy, P. H., Knapp, G.
    2003 Maps Of, By, And For The Peoples Of Latin America. Human Organization. 62(4):303 – 314
  9. ^




    Herlihy, P. H., Knapp, G.
    2003 Maps Of, By, And For The Peoples Of Latin America. Human Organization. 62(4):303 – 314
  10. ^




    Harris, Leila M. and Helen D. Hazen.
    2006. Power of Maps: (Counter) Mapping for Conservation. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. 4(1): 99-130
  11. ^ Gilmore, Michael P. and Jason C. Young
    2012. The Use of Participatory Mapping in Ethnobiological Research, Biocultural Conservation, and Community Empowerment: A Case Study from the Peruvian Amazon. Journal of Ethnobiology. 32(1): 6-29.
  12. ^




    Chambers, R.
    1991. Participatory rural appraisals: past, present and future. Forests, Trees, and People. 15/16: 4-9.
  13. ^ Chambers, R.
    1991. Participatory rural appraisals: past, present and future. Forests, Trees, and People. 15/16: 4-9.
  14. ^




    Cronkleton, P. Et Al.
    2010 Social Geomatics: Participatory Forest Mapping To Mediate Resource Conflict In The Bolivian Amazon. Human Ecology. 38:65 - 76
  15. ^ Dennis, R. A. Et Al.
    2005 Fire, People And Pixels: Linking Social Science And Remote Sensing To Understand Underlying Causes And Impacts Of Fires In Indonesia. Human Ecology. 33 (4):465 - 504
  16. ^




    Herlihy, P. H., Knapp, G.
    2003 Maps Of, By, And For The Peoples Of Latin America. Human Organization. 62(4):303 – 314
  17. ^ Sletto, B. I.
    2009 “We Drew What We Imagined” Participatory Mapping, Performance, And The Arts Of Landscape Making. Current Anthropology 50 (4):443 - 476