Mapping Grassroots: Geodata and the structure of community-led open environmental science


Grassroots Mapping, an early project of the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, began in 2010 in Lima, Peru. Using balloons and kites to launch cameras as “community satellites”, grassroots mappers around the world have engaged in local-level, activist remote sensing – building upon the critical cartography and participatory mapping movements to investigate local environmental and social issues with inexpensive “Do-It-Yourself” technologies. This article discusses community participation models and the importance of high-level participation in avoiding what we term crowdharvesting – a widespread trend in contemporary citizen science projects where participants are limited to categorizing data or logging observations. By contrast, through the process of first-hand data creation and analysis, community researchers in the Public Lab network have attempted to build expertise, critique existing data collection regimes, and reconfigure techno-scientific processes to include substantive civic participation.

ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 4 (3), 849-73