Maps --> Media





means to illuminate social and environmental injustices


co-construction of knowledge


promotion of self and critical awareness that leads to individual, collective social change

Participatory Action Research



Method by which participants identify, represent, and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique


  • Identify community assets and deficits
  • Use photography to draw attention to a social issue
  • Induce change by informing policy makers


Participatory Mapping

Public Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS)

Many Voices

Many forms

Medium influences who will participate

(Chambers 2006)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Organized #DronesforGood

  • Digital Humanitarianism
  • UAViators 
  • DIYDrones
  • OpenDroneMap
  • DroneAdventures
  • Conservation Drones
  • Drone Code

Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University created this 3D model from aerial imagery captured by UAV.

Spatial Media: Aerial Photovoice Cinemtography

Aerial Photovoice

  • evokes emotion 
  • representations of place
  • What if we used it for something more important?

Aerial Photography

Harmful Algal Blooms

Twin Lakes Home Owners Assiciation, Federal Way

Lake Loreen

Lake Jean

Lake Loreen

Lake Loreen

Digital Maps! 
Use of UAV could offer control of temporal and spatial resolution of base maps.

 Putting a UAV in the hands of a community, could they monitor...

  • Community changes through the course of a day, season, year...
  • Acute changes - landslide event, urban encroachment
  • Gradual changes - land use change, urban growth
  • Ecosystem services
  •  Access to water resources, refugee camp movement
  • Habitat loss...
  • ?????


  1. Drone Selection Process
  2. Flight Practice and Planning
  3. Flying
  4. Data Processing 

Drone Selection

(Eisenbeiss, 2011: 34)

Classified by takeoff and landing methods

DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus

  • 25 minute flight time
  • Return home when battery is low
  • Compass and GPS
  • 14 mega pixel camera and Gimble
  • ~$1200


Flight Practice and Planning


Auto Pilot

Free Flight

Image Processing

Photography and Cinematography


Image Processing

MapKnitter, Google Maps, MapBox, GeoServer + OpenLayers, ESRI Online

Manual Processing

Structure from Motion (SfM) software

Generate an Othophoto



Title Text

  • Bullet One
  • Bullet Two
  • Bullet Three

77 photos to make this orthophoto in >one hour total



Similar critiques of GIS

and mobile spatial media (Elwood, 2008; Thatcher, 2016)

Privacy (Curry, 1997) 

  • Geoweb transformation of the social contract around privacy – societal agreement (Elwood, 2015)

Access to technology (Obermeyer, 1995) 

Risk of Re-enforcing inequality 




  • Decline of the public sector - private sector leading
  • "Enthusiasts" can fly, not governments
  • International regulations vary dramatically

Medium influences who will participate

(Chambers, 2006) 

Comfort level when flying

Tacoma Professional

Tacoma Amateur 

Only scratching the surface

Conclusion & Future

Maps are political


Work with communities

Opportunity to establish ethical standards for UAV usage


  • Illuminate social and environmental injustice
  • Relevant Temporal Resolution
  • Enhanced Spatial Resolution
  • Increased coverage
  • Complement existing research methods
  • Opportunity to establish good practice with community engagement 

Google Earth date unknown

UAV imagery March 2015

Participation sparks critical thinking during each step of the process


to utilize these increasingly accessible technologies to edit your world, tell your truth,

share your experience in place. 

Thank You.


Acknowledgements:  Ali Modarres, Anaid Yerena, Sarah Elwood, Kris Seymer, Chris Davidson, Mark Pendras, Jim Thatcher

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