New Publication: Participatory Geoweb

​Corbett, J. and Cochrane, L. (2017) Engaging with the Participatory Geoweb: Exploring the Dynamics of VGI. In Volunteered Geographic Information and the Future of Geospatial Data edited by C. Campelo, M. Bertolotto and P. Corcoran. IGI Global.

Abstract: Maps were historically used as tools of the elite to maintain and expand power and control. The development of participatory mapmaking and the geoweb have opened new avenues for broader citizen engagement and therefore challenge traditional power dynamics. This chapter analyzes three examples and presents experiential learning around participatory processes and VGI contributions. Specifically we explore who is contributing their information, what are their motivations and incentives, in what ways do users interact with available technologies, and how is this contributing to change? We conclude by discussing the roles of motivations, the type of contribution, organizational capacity and leadership, and objectives. In comparing and contrasting these case studies we examine the individual and organizational dynamics of engagement, and how this can better inform the discourse about VGI.

Full version of chapter available here.

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New Publication: Participation & Empowerment

Corbett, J., Cochrane, L. and Gill, M. (2016) Powering Up: Revisiting Participatory GIS and Empowerment. The Cartographic Journal

  • Since 1996, participatory GIS (PGIS) has facilitated avenues through which public participation can occur. One of the ways practitioners articulate social change associated with PGIS interventions has been to qualify success using the term 'empowerment'. This paper explores the extent to which PGIS academic literature has utilised, defined, measured, and analysed empowerment. This research will demonstrate the degree to which PGIS has, from 1996 to 2014, appropriately and adequately taken into account the causative and direct relationship between a PGIS intervention and empowerment. This article identifies works broadly dealing with PGIS, then searches within that subset of literature for the term 'empowerment.' The findings are both quantitatively and qualitatively assessed to explore the trends within the PGIS literature over time and to contextualise the ways in which empowerment has been identified, understood, and articulated. We conclude with a discussion on the extent to which future PGIS research and practice has the ability to disrupt power inequalities.
The full article is gated. Abstract and further publication details available via the link above. If you would like a copy of the article, send me an email.
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PhD (x3) and Postdoc: Participatory urban governance

'Participatory urban governance between democracy and clientelism: Brokers and (in)formal politics' is a five-year research project financed by the European Research Council (2016-2021), led by Dr Martijn Koster. This research project investigates ethnographically how brokers position themselves in participatory urban governance. It examines their practices, discourses and networks, both in and outside officially sanctioned channels and institutions. The research conceptualizes brokers as 'assemblers', connective agents who actively bring together different government and citizen actors, institutions and resources and who combine formal and informal politics.

The project focuses on four cities, two in the Global North and two in the Global South: Rotterdam (NL), Manchester (UK), Cochabamba (Bolivia) and Recife (Brazil). It will develop a new framework for analysing brokerage in participatory urban governance, which will enhance our ability to understand the challenges of political representation more broadly, as well as the impact of brokerage on state-citizen engagement and on decision-making regarding the allocation of resources.

More on PhD options.

More on Postdoc option.

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World-system Analysis

Immanuel Wallerstein, an American sociologist at Yale, developed the world-systems approach, which he has written about and developed for more than four decades –first published in The Modern World-System in 1974. In 2004 he authored World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction as a means to present the theory in a concise way, largely for those unfamiliar with it. The need for a different approach for analysis, Wallerstein argues, is that "we have studied these phenomena in separate boxes to which we have given special names – politics, economics, the social structure, culture – without seeing that these boxes are constructs more of our imagination than of reality. The phenomena dealt with in these separate boxes are so closely intermeshed that each presumes the other, each affects the other, each is incomprehensible without taking into account the other boxes" (p. x). Drawing upon that introductory work, two interesting themes were explored:

(Re)Framing capitalism:

  • "Capitalism is not the mere existence of persons or firms producing for sale on the market with the intention of obtaining a profit. Such persons or firms have existed for thousands of years all across the world. Nor is the existence of persons working for wages sufficient as a definition. Wage-labor has also been known for thousands of years. We are in a capitalist system only when the system gives priority to the endless accumulation of capital." (p. 23-24)
  • "Braudel's influence was crucial in two regards. First, in his later work on capitalism and civilization, Braudel world insist on a sharp distinction between the sphere of the free market and the sphere of monopolies. The called only the latter capitalism and, far from being the same thing as the free market, he said that capitalism was the "anti-market." This concept marked a direct assault, both substantively and terminologically, on the conflation by classical economists (including Marx) of the market and capitalism." (p. 18)

On citizens and participation:

  • "…the concept is so elementary that we find it hard to understand how radical was the shift from "subjects" to "citizens." To be a citizen meant to have the right to participate, on an equal level with all other citizens, in the basic decisions of the state. To be a citizen meant that there were no persons with statuses higher than that of citizens (such as aristocrats). To be a citizen meant that everyone was being accepted as a rational person, capable of political decision." (p. 51)
  • "The liberty of the majority is located in the degree to which collective political decisions reflect in fact the preferences of the majority, as opposed to those of smaller groups who may in practice control the decision-making process. This is not merely a question of so-called free elections, although no doubt regular, honest, open elections are a necessary if far from sufficient part of democratic structure. Liberty of the majority requires the active participation of the majority. It requires access to information on the part of the majority. It requires a mode of translating majority views of the populace into majority views in legislative bodies." (p. 88)

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Logan Cochrane

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