Co-authored with Amelia Hunt


As the classic digital divide, around access, becomes ever smaller two significant barriers persist in opening up geospatial and mapping technologies for new users and for implementation in humanitarian and development projects. These are questions over translation of graphical representation, and organizational barriers to data flows. This session aims to address both these issues. Firstly by exploring the ‘untruths’ of digital mapping tools, borrowing lessons from data visualization techniques and the work of the post-impressionist art movement, to suggest that the gaps in our maps are where the majority of the richest data for humanitarianism lies. Secondly, we seek to address the organizational barriers to sharing this information between lay users and organizations. Exploring the role of centralized, decentralized and distributed networks we develop a management concept of research, regionalize, prepare, humanize. The session aims show that the dual process of understanding the data collected, how it is translated, and the networks through which it is distributed, can add more value, and create better representations and maps, than adding additional data.


Doug Specht is a Reader in Cultural Geography and Communication, a Chartered Geographer (CGeog. FRGS), and Assistant Head of School in the School of Media and Communication at the University of Westminster.

His research examines how knowledge is constructed and codified through digital and cartographic artefacts, focusing on development issues in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, where he has carried out extensive fieldwork. He also writes and researches on pedagogy, and is author of the Media and Communications Student Study Guide.

He speaks and writes on topics of data ethics, development, education and mapping practices at conferences and invited lectures around the world. He is a member of the editorial board at Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, and the journal Anthropocenes – Human, Inhuman, Posthuman. He is also Chair of the Environmental Network for Central America.