Open Data, Political Crisis and Guerrilla Cartography


Open data and the geoweb have emerged, along with the rhetoric of democratization and a promise that increased user participation would lead to more empowered citizens. Recently, European rules have attempted to make the availability and re-use of data from everywhere much easier. The EU Open Data rules are shifting issues from finding information to selecting the more relevant data and enabling new approaches to the real-time scrutiny of powerful institutions. However, geography, open data and the Internet are obviously not intrinsically subversive. Moving from transparency to accountability, and from critical thinking to political leverage, requires making sense of data and empowering people with it. This suggests that crowdsourcing geography is not so much about collaboratively distributing the production of data but instead about shifting the production of meaning from the few to the many, soliciting contributions for the critical analysis of data, openly distributing problem-solving and using the exchanges between people from different backgrounds all across the world to construct the interpretation. Crowdsourcing geography reduces information asymmetry and enables power strategies, deconstruction and counter-hegemonic initiatives to jump spatial scales, thereby allowing them to leverage public opinion on a global scale. This is an opportunity for guerrilla cartography, transforming data and geographical knowledge into real-time leverage and coming unexpectedly, because it can be launched from virtually any place, crowdsourced, and spawn followers around the world. However, shifting the production of meaning from the few to the many requires more trained brains than domains. What matters most is grasping ‘dead’ data, giving it ‘live’ meaning, producing reusable information just in time, rapidly transforming data into political leverage and sharing it in an efficient manner. This paper showcases the possibilities of crowdsourcing geography and guerrilla cartography by using the political crisis in Romania that took place during the summer of 2012.

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