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The role of data collection, mapping and analysis in the reproduction of refugeeness and migration discourses: reflections from the Refugee Spaces project

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posted on 24.03.2020, 12:30 by Giovanna Astolfo, Ricardo Marten Caceres, Falli PalaiologouFalli Palaiologou, Camillo Boano, Ed Manley
Book description: The digital age has thrown questions of representation, participation and humanitarianism back to the fore, as machine learning, algorithms and big data centres take over the process of mapping the subjugated and subaltern. Since the rise of Google Earth in 2005, there has been an explosion in the use of mapping tools to quantify and assess the needs of those in crisis, including those affected by climate change and the wider neo-liberal agenda. Yet, while there has been a huge upsurge in the data produced around these issues, the representation of people remains questionable. Some have argued that representation has diminished in humanitarian crises as people are increasingly reduced to data points. In turn, this data has become ever more difficult to analyse without vast computing power, leading to a dependency on the old colonial powers to refine the data collected from people in crisis, before selling it back to them. This book brings together critical perspectives on the role that mapping people, knowledges and data now plays in humanitarian work, both in cartographic terms and through data visualisations, and questions whether, as we map crises, it is the map itself that is in crisis.


The Refugee Spaces data project and platform were funded by The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, University College London, through the Materialization Grant over the period 2016-18.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

Published in

Mapping Crisis: Participation, Datafication, and Humanitarianism in the Age of Digital Mapping


119 - 142


University of London Press


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© Doug Specht and The Authors

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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by the University of London Press under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-NC-ND). Full details of this licence are available at:

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9781912250332; 9781912250387




Doug Specht


Dr Falli Palaiologou. Deposit date: 21 March 2020