Centre for Internet & Society

'Map for making change' is a project using geographical mapping techniques to support struggles for social justice in India

As we go around living our lives, living in a city that is transforming, it is interesting to know that there are people interested in mapping the changing face of, not just the city, but the changing country.

The invite read ‘Map for making change’, elaborating that the project explored the potential of geographical mapping techniques to support struggles for social justice in India. Stepping inside the CIS workspace in Domlur, the large screens and tiny laptops projected maps of India, with dots that intrigue and piqued the onlooker. Maps that reflected pavement dwellers in Mumbai and problems of their eviction and rehabilitation, of mining areas from Goa to Madhya Pradesh, to the ‘hunted’ Chattisgarh, to maps that pointed heritage sites in Cochin and Ahmedabad you could explore using the GPRS on your mobile or demolished building in Kolkatta.

The idea was mapping the changing face of the country. The 25 participants were a mix of activists, researchers, artists and techies. The brain behind the project, researcher Anja Kovacs, explains the idea behind the project: “The idea took seed two years ago in 2007, when, as a trained sociologist I realised that anthropologists around the world were studying cyber-anthropology and I didn’t even know about social media sites like Facebook or Orkut.”

Hit by an idea, she says, “I realised that as activists, we tend to make a mistake by ignoring the technological changes happening around us, since technology, no doubt is transforming our lives.” More importantly, she made a connect: “I realised that we as activists could use it to our favour.”

Her first thoughts were maps. She explains her choice: “Maps were used in colonial times and maps affect the lives of those who do not use them the most.” She pointed out how “even to this day maps are used for governance and by policy makers. In that sense they can be really important”.

The map is a powerful medium to convey information in an innocent manner, she says. “When the land in a map is hid behind dots, one knows there is a problem,” she says matter-of-factly.

Currently a fellow with Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), she co-coordinated and organised the project and says the last five months the selected participants have had several workshops, one of them she mentions was of them learning the “whole mapping exercise”.

A work-in-progress is what all these projects are, and Kovacs says, after an intense five months, they are also looking at answering the “what next”, for now, however, she is happy, “to have begun tracing the transformation”.

Read the original article in DNA