Between micro mappers and missing maps: Digital humanitarianism and the politics of material participation in disaster response

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25 Scopus citations

Abstract

Crisis mapping is a new modality of participatory humanitarian action in which global publics are mobilized to trace digital maps of disaster-stricken sites and to classify, verify, and plot on maps Big Data produced by disaster-affected people. This article untangles the political rationalities behind this emergent form of digital humanitarianism by looking at two platforms that shape the self-organizing crowds in which crisis mapping is grounded: MicroMappers, a microtasking platform for processing messages from disaster zones, and the Missing Maps Project, which traces maps of disaster-prone areas in poor countries. While looking at the increasingly prominent interplay between device-based participation and technologies of advanced liberal governance in humanitarianism, I make two interrelated claims. First, I argue that ICTs do not promote the democratization of disaster response as much as they put at its disposal new tools for establishing order and security in crisis zones by facilitating the transfer of responsibility to humanitarian crowds. Second, I claim that the emergence of the crowd as a new humanitarian actor that serves the dual and potentially incommensurate purposes of resilience and witnessing perpetuates the ambiguities of a humanitarian endeavor whose inherent tensions had grown deeper since it gained its current political prominence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1025-1043
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Volume34
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016

Keywords

  • Big Data
  • Crisis mapping
  • digital humanitarianism
  • material participation
  • publics
  • resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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