Resistance GIS was a mini-conference organized by members of the Mapping Action Collective along with other students, GIS professionals, and community members, talking a critical look at data and geographic information systems (GIS) in our modern world. The conference aim was to have tough conversations about how maps and GIS can be used for applications of war, surveillance, marketing, and unsustainable resource extraction, and to think collectively about how we can make changes to the field.
Organizers Sachi Arakawa and Tim Hitchins discussed the need for a more critical approach to data and GIS in an interview on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud the day before the conference. As Hitchins explained, “There is a narrative behind a map. Maps are based on data, and whoever controls that data or produces that data that then becomes a map tells a story. And there are a lot of stories that aren’t being told. We’re taught in this siloed, academic atmosphere that GIS is a neutral tool, and it’s not.”
Presenters and guests from around the country attended. Presenters spoke about topics ranging from the new issue of data refuge, the value of documenting the lived experiences of communities through participatory mapping, citizen science and how drones are a new tool for grassroots GIS, the impact of mapping informal settlements in the global south, and more. The most highly anticipated talk was from keynote speaker Erin McElroy of The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project (AEMP). Erin presented on her experience as the lead organizer of AEMP, a complex and interwoven collage of maps, music, film, murals, profiles that track no-cause evictions, predatory landlords, and displacement from gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, and Los Angeles.
The presentations were followed by a collaborative discussion and brainstorming session intended to get conference attendees to actively thing about the day’s topics and engage in dialogue about how these issues might be addressed.
All presentations and discussion that took place at the Resistance GIS conference were filmed and will be made public on the event’s website in the near future. Follow-up from the conference and information about other notable data and GIS efforts can be found on the RGIS Twitter feed.