, Volume 78, Issue 6, pp 935–948 | Cite as

Tracing contingencies: analyzing the political in assemblages of web 2.0 cartographies

  • Christian Bittner
  • Georg GlaszeEmail author
  • Cate Turk


Our paper presents a theoretical approach to critical research on web 2.0 cartographies. Within the geoweb, dynamic and collaborative web based maps have become a popular medium for collating and communicating geographic information. Web 2.0 cartographies are often promoted as facilitating public participation and democratizing geographic knowledge. Such claims demand a closer look at the processes through which people do engage in these cartographic projects and the multiple actors, institutions, norms and technologies at work. In the context of ‘theorizing the geoweb’, here we propose conceptual tools for analyzing these myriad interactions within web 2.0 cartographies. We understand web 2.0 cartographies as assemblages of subjects, materialities and practices, or ‘actor networks’. Yet explorations of actor‐networks describe existing relations and as a consequence tend to overlook what has been excluded or lies outside of such assemblages. In order to overcome this blindness we suggest bringing together actor‐network theory with the concepts of hegemonic discourses, contingency and the political from Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau. These two political theorists stress the idea that specific social realities become fixed, sedimented and perceived as natural while other possible social realities become marginalized. Using the example of the dynamic ‘Palestine Crisis Map’ (an Ushahidi Crowdmap) we demonstrate a methodology that emphasizes sensitivity towards moments of exclusion and struggle, where the political unfolds. Theorizing the political in this way extends the processual approach within Critical Cartography and offers a conceptual basis for critical research on the social dimensions of web 2.0 cartographies and geoweb practices.


Critical cartography Web 2.0 cartography Geoweb Actor-network theory Theory of discourses and hegemonies 



The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the special issues editors and the three anonymous reviewers for their detailed and helpful comments. Furthermore we extend our thanks to Pauline Probst for her assistance with data analysis and to the creator/moderator of the Palestine Crisis Map for her considered reflection on her project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany

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