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Maputopias: cartographies of communication, coordination and action—the cases of Ushahidi and InfoAmazonia


Maps have been established as objects bestowed with knowledge, power and impact. In the hands of people, maps have been a form of political counter-power. The emergence of digital cartography, mobile media, data crowdsourcing platforms and geographic information systems strengthens the maps’ muscle and coincides with a growing interest in crisis and activist mapping, a practice that blends the capabilities of the geoweb with humanitarian assistance and campaigning. Based on empirical observation, case studies and interviews, this article analyses the emergence of digital cartography as a new paradigm in activism and humanitarianism by examining how two platforms—Ushahidi and InfoAmazonia—use maps. Ushahidi was created in 2008 in Kenya, marking the beginning of geoactivism, which employs digital cartography and often crowdsourced data to provide alternative narratives and spaces for communication and action. InfoAmazonia—dedicated to environmental issues and human rights in the Amazon region—was created in 2012. Since then, other geoactivist initiatives proliferated, presenting three different outcomes in the shape of a paradigm shift, several disruptions and criticism. This study examines these consequences, scrutinising how humanitarianism and activism—as fields of power and knowledge—are being reconfigured by new cartographic practices.

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Fig. 1

Source: Meier (2012)

Fig. 2

Source: InfoAmazonia (2017c)

Fig. 3

Source: Ushahidi Ecuador (2016)

Fig. 4

Source: Calle (2017)

Fig. 5

Source: de Soto (2014: 361)

Fig. 6

Source: Elaboration by the author


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Correspondence to Miren Gutierrez.

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Gutierrez, M. Maputopias: cartographies of communication, coordination and action—the cases of Ushahidi and InfoAmazonia. GeoJournal 84, 101–120 (2019).

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  • Geoactivism
  • Digital humanitarianism
  • Crisis mapping
  • Critical cartography
  • Data activism
  • Activist mapping