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Conditions for spatial empowerment: An analysis of advocacy and education participatory mapping exercises

, Georgetown University, United States

Georgetown University . Awarded


This thesis investigates the role of participation in the production of geographic representations for affecting outcomes, leading to what is termed in this thesis as spatial empowerment. The concept of spatial empowerment is particularly relevant in the early 21st century context, as technologies have changed in such a way that the fundamental processes in which geographic information is collected, stored, displayed, and disseminated have now opened up such that new actors are taking part in these processes. As can be seen in this thesis, this addition of new actors means that new and different actors can achieve spatial empowerment by taking part in the process of spatial representation definition.

A framework has been constructed around this concept of spatial empowerment and includes a series of variables that have been identified as playing a key role in allowing for or hindering spatial empowerment. The variables include access to technologies and institutional conditions surrounding a mapping exercise. With these independent variables as points of inquiry, this thesis employs a structured, focused comparison to explore different cases that vary with regard to the interplay of the independent variables in effecting spatial empowerment.

In the first empirical chapter, a case involving a National Geographic-led project to design a web-based GIS system for use in the classroom is investigated. The case is an example of a mapping exercise in which the independent variables aligned so that spatial empowerment was achieved. The project allowed students to develop a sense of identity with a different spatial unit--the watershed--and procure power which can come from this alternative identity.

In the second empirical chapter, two additional cases are explored that have varying success with spatial empowerment and were both hindered by limiting independent variables. In the first case, advocacy, relief and other NGO groups used satellite imaging technologies to monitor the human rights of peoples in eastern Burma whose rights were reportedly being violated with violence and oppression. The second case looks at the use of mobile phone technologies and web mapping platforms to track violence in communities following the disputed 2007 presidential election in Kenya.


O'Connor, S.P. Conditions for spatial empowerment: An analysis of advocacy and education participatory mapping exercises. Master's thesis, Georgetown University. Retrieved September 25, 2020 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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