Countermapping COVID: grassroots visualizations of data on the margins
Researcher: Paola Sartoretto, PI Sandra Jeppesen, Lakehead University Orillia
Funding: This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [grant/file # 430-2021-00835].
Governments have long used data mapping to understand how phenomena are geographically distributed, including to track the location and size of outbreaks during health crises. Today, with iconic COVID-19 maps proliferating, governments may use maps to support political and economic interests. Grassroots activists have also tapped into the benefits of digitally facilitated mapping, attempting to mitigate biases and data gaps reproduced in official COVID-19 maps.
Three key objectives of this project are to trace data imaginaries of COVID-19 counter-data mapping projects from (1) conception by communities, through (2) production and posting on data justice websites, to (3) reception in communities of social media users who interpret and comment on the maps.
To achieve these objectives, this program of research will examine global Covid-19 pandemic data visualizations by civil society data mapping groups in key international sites. It will critically analyze how big data analytics are used by intersectional data activists to track, visualize, and appropriate data to construct a more accurate view of social values and realities on the margins. Having a better understanding of grassroots practices of counter-data mapping will support grassroots organizations, social movements, and non-profits in the preparation of data policy recommendations.