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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Opening Black Boxes and Following Traces: An Exploration of the Coalition for a Livable Future's Regional Equity Atlas Actor-World, 2003-2007
by Merrick, Margrete Bernard, Ph.D., Portland State University, 2011, 339; 3468961
Abstract (Summary)

Maps have longed been recognized as instruments of power and persuasion. With the recent proliferation of maps in the media and on the Internet has come an increasing desire among groups advocating for environmental and social change to have access to maps (the product) and mapping (the process) to more effectively promote their agendas. However, this is not as simple as it seems. Far from being neutral conduits of "truth," maps are constructed by a myriad of social interactions among heterogeneous actors (human and technical) that left unacknowledged can lead to an untapped potential of the power of maps. Adopting actor-network theory's (ANT) theoretical framework that accepts nonhuman entities as actors in the social, and its methodological protocols, this study contributes to the needed empirical evidence relating to the ways in which maps and mapping behave and function in society, particularly in the grassroots advocacy context and neighborhood scale, through a case study of the products, and thereby the process, of the Coalition for a Livable Future's (CLF) Regional Equity Atlas four-year endeavor. The purpose of this study is to account for and expose the complexity of relations among data, technology, people, and organizations that underlie it and the ways in which these relations affected the atlas itself. Four interrelated themes emerge from this study. The first relates to CLF's contribution to equity mapping discourse including its participatory approach to equity mapping, its definition of equity, and the subsequent impacts of both of these things on the mapping process. The second relates more specifically to the contributions of the embedded ideologies that are integral to the GIS software that was used and the roles that they played. The third theme is the importance of process in community-based mapping projects and the recognition that they are social processes in the comprehensive sense that ANT theorists advocate. The fourth theme relates to how maps work, specifically, maps as maps versus the idea of maps.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Adler, Seymour
Commitee: Abbott, Carl, Flower, Michael, Seltzer, Ethan, Shandas, Vivek
School: Portland State University
Department: Urban Studies
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geography, Geographic information science, Urban planning
Keywords: Actor-network theory, Advocacy, Equity, GIS, Mapping
Publication Number: 3468961
ISBN: 978-1-124-84170-0
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