Mapping Crisis: Participation, Datafication and Humanitarianism in the Age of Digital Mapping


Doug Specht


The digital age has thrown questions of representation, participation and humanitarianism back to the fore, as machine learning, algorithms and big data centres take over the process of mapping the subjugated and subaltern. Since the rise of Google Earth in 2005, there has been an explosion in the use of mapping tools to quantify and assess the needs of those in crisis, including those affected by climate change and the wider neo-liberal agenda. Yet, while there has been a huge upsurge in the data produced around these issues, the representation of people remains questionable. Some have argued that representation has diminished in humanitarian crises as people are increasingly reduced to data points. In turn, this data has become ever more difficult to analyse without vast computing power, leading to a dependency on the old colonial powers to refine the data collected from people in crisis, before selling it back to them.

This book brings together critical perspectives on the role that mapping people, knowledges and data now plays in humanitarian work, both in cartographic terms and through data visualisations, and questions whether, as we map crises, it is the map itself that is in crisis.


  • Mapping Crisis: a reflection on the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Introduction: mapping in times of crisis
  • 1. Mapping as tacit representations of the colonial gaze
  • 2. The failures of participatory mapping: a mediational perspective
  • 3. Knowledge and spatial production between old and new representations: a conceptual and operative framework
  • 4. Data colonialism, surveillance capitalism and drones
  • 5. The role of data collection, mapping and analysis in the reproduction of refugeeness and migration discourses: reflections from the Refugee Spaces project
  • 6. Dying in the technosphere: an intersectional analysis of European migration maps
  • 7. Now the totality maps us: mapping climate migration and surveilling movable borders in digital cartographies
  • 8. The rise of the citizen data scientist
  • 9. Modalities of united statelessness


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September 14, 2020

Details about the available publication format: Open Access

Open Access

ISBN-13 (15)


Date of first publication (11)

Hijri Calendar



Details about the available publication format: Paperback


ISBN-13 (15)


Date of first publication (11)

Hijri Calendar

Physical Dimensions