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Subaltern Empowerment in the Geoweb: Tensions between Publicity and Privacy



Geographers have argued that the emergence of the geospatial web, or geoweb, represents a radical shift away from the state's monopolization of geospatial technologies. Like the public participation geographic information systems (PPGIS) movement before it, the geoweb research agenda has emphasized a desire for empowerment and participatory democracy. However, this research agenda has also inherited a conceptualization of power that emphasizes the linkages between empowerment and public visibility, and this paper argues that this inheritance opens potentially sensitive geoweb data to exploitation. Geographers therefore have an important role to play in emphasizing the need to explore ways of harnessing the power of the geoweb for marginalized communities while nonetheless maintaining those communities' privacy. This paper uses work with the Maijuna indigenous people of Peru as a case study to begin a discussion about how the political goals of disempowered people may be best obtained through both public and private uses of the geoweb.