The Cartographic Gaze emphasises the relational dynamics between the mapper and the mapped, how this translates into the production of space, and how it reproduces hegemony. The Cartographic Gaze found dominance with the printing revolution, which along with new instruments of measurement and newly ‘discovered’ lands, led to a prolific expansion of mapping activates in the 16th Century, producing increasingly detailed birds-eye views of the world. These views from above worked to serve as tools of possession, the explorer and cartographers elevated position and the commanding view provided by the maps mirrored the divine gaze of God, positioning the commissioner of the map in a seemingly omniscient position. This process was instrumental in the forming of the Other, and with that the subjugation of the Other. There is now much talk of new participatory modes of mapping, and about the importance of Geographic Information in achieving the SDGs, this paper though questions the extent to which these new practices can break-away from the Cartographic Gaze to create new knowledges and representations of the world, suggesting that the Cartographic Gaze is unavoidable within mapping practices, and that the digital age has the potential to inadvertently strengthen, rather than weaken subjugation.

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.