Short Paper , , , ,

Who’s map? Everyday actions of spatial data resistance

Craig M. Dalton
Hofstra University

Jim Thatcher
University of Washington-Tacoma

Data is the lifeblood of mapping. Without it, even the most rhetorically powerful lacks substance. Recent counter-mapping by groups like the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and Argentina’s Iconoclasistas reveal how data can be powerfully repurposed in the right setting. In contrast, personal location data, whether big data or data science, tends to be the tool of major corporations and governmental initiatives, from Facebook to Google, the New York Police Department to the Chinese social credit system. Popular media suggest that people have little input or ability to influence how they are mapped and profiled, and subsequently advertised to or their movements blocked. In this paper, we seek to survey how people actively and passively resist and/or shape the collection and use of their personal location information, a form of everyday counter-mapping, as people attempt to exert influence over their data. We develop a typology of strategies of how people engage the production and use of their personal geographic data: acceptance, active resistance, making present, and escape. By identifying and cohesively conceptualizing such strategies, we aim to develop a series of approaches to exert more control over spatial data about oneself. We focus on strategies for two reasons. First, modes of resistance are highly contextual in terms of the political and social processes at work. Second, discrete technical efforts, such as turning off your phone’s GPS or using a VPN, can be quickly rendered obsolete or circumvented as technologies change in the continuing arms race of privacy and data capitalism. The strategies we hope to shed light on can adapt their specific implementations, remaining relevant and useful as conditions shift.