Participatory Mapping: presenting spatial knowledge of local communities

[Someone has asked me about Participatory Mapping – which seems systems thinking-adjacent, or practice-related at least – does anybody know it well and want to recommend technology or methodology? Benjamin]


Participatory Mapping

What is Participatory Mapping?

Participatory mapping – also called community-based mapping – is a general term used to define a set of approaches and techniques that combines the tools of modern cartography with participatory methods to represent the spatial knowledge of local communities. It is based on the premise that local inhabitants possess expert knowledge of their local environments which can be expressed in a geographical framework which is easily understandable and universally recognised. Participatory maps often represent a socially or culturally distinct understanding of landscape and include information that is excluded from mainstream or official maps. Maps created by local communities represent the place in which they live, showing those elements that communities themselves perceive as important such as customary land boundaries, traditional natural resource management practices, sacred areas, and so on.


What criteria is there to recognise and denote community maps? 

Participatory mapping is defined by the process of production.The processes used to create the maps can be as valuable as the maps themselves. Participatory maps are planned around a common goal and a strategy for use and are often made with input from an entire community in an open and inclusive process. The higher the level of participation by all members of the community, the more beneficial the outcome because the final map will reflect the collective experience of the group producing the map.

Participatory mapping is a product that represents the agenda of the community. Participatory mapping is map production undertaken by communities to show information that is relevant and important to their needs and is mainly for their use.

Participatory mapping produces maps which depict local knowledge and information.The maps contain a community’s place names, symbols, scales and priority features that represent local knowledge systems.

Participatory mapping is not defined by the level of compliance with formal cartographic conventions. Participatory maps are not confined by formal media; a community map may be a drawing in the sand or may be incorporated into a sophisticated computer-based GIS (geographic information system). Whereas regular maps seek conformity, community maps embrace diversity in presentation and content. That said, to be useful for outside groups such as state authorities, the closer the maps follow recognised cartographic conventions, the greater the likelihood that they will be seen as effective communication tools.

(CTA and IIED, 2006)

Why is it useful? 

In recent years, there has been a growing effort to promote community engagement in decision-making processes concerning natural resource management. Participatory mapping has emerged as a powerful tool that allows remote and marginalised communities to represent themselves spatially, bringing their local knowledge and perspectives to the attention of governmental authorities and decision-makers. For this reason, participatory mapping is commonly used to create maps that represent land and resource use patterns, hazards, community values and perceptions, to gather information on traditional knowledge and practices, to collect data for assessments or monitoring, to present alternative scenarios and to empower and educate stakeholders.


MappingForRights, an initiative of the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and local partners, is intended to enable forest communities themselves to demonstrate their presence in the forest; decision-makers and the private sector to take account of and recognise this presence; and to assist the international community in designing programmes concerned with those rights and ensure that forest communities are equitable beneficiaries of future developments.

Since it was launched in 2011, it has supported hundreds of forest communities across the region to produce maps of their lands and resources covering over five million hectares. In 2016, MappingForRights was recognised by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as part of the UN Momentum for Change awards.

View this short video to find out more about participatory mapping in the Congo Basin


Source: Participatory Mapping: presenting spatial knowledge of local communities

On Evaluating the Scientific Contribution of the Apollo Moon Missions Via Information Theory: A Study of the Scientist-Scientist Relationship – Mitroff and Mason | Management Science

[Via David Ing. Academic paywall, unfortunately]

On Evaluating the Scientific Contribution of the Apollo Moon Missions Via Information Theory: A Study of the Scientist-Scientist Relationship

Published Online:

This paper describes the difficulties in evaluating large-scale scientific programs. These difficulties are illustrated through a single case study of the Apollo moon program. The paper describes some of the results of a three and a half year investigation into the beliefs of 42 of the most eminent scientists who studied the moon rocks. The effect of the Apollo missions on the beliefs of the scientists with respect to certain key scientific hypotheses is measured by means of information theory. The paper shows why greater collaborative efforts between the physical and the social sciences are required if there are to develop better tools of evaluation, and ultimately, if we are to develop more informed models of science. The study [Mitroff, Ian I. 1974. The Subjective Side of Science: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Psychology of the Apollo Moon Scientists. Elsevier, forthcoming.] on which this paper is based documents the tremendous role that “irrational” factors play in the attainment of scientific objectivity. We need better models of science that are based, if only in part, on what scientists actually do.

Source: On Evaluating the Scientific Contribution of the Apollo Moon Missions Via Information Theory: A Study of the Scientist-Scientist Relationship | Management Science

David Snowden: Profiles in Knowledge Published on July 12, 2018 – Stan Garfield on LinkedIn

A very thorough profile of Mr Snowden
This is the 26th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. This is also my 400th blog post.

Dave is a self-described “proud curmudgeon and pragmatic cynic” and the founder and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge. I have been quoting Dave in my blog since I started it in 2006. I first met him at KMWorld 2006, and have seen him there most years ever since. If you haven’t heard him in person, you should watch his videos and listen to his podcasts.

1. LinkedIn
Currently working on the application of natural sciences to social systems thought the development of a range of methods and the SenseMaker software suite. Started work in an NGO post University and then moved onto HR & Training in the late 70s when he started working with computers. That together with a diploma from The Certified Accountants got him a job as Development Accountant in the same firm where he headed up the Treasury function and was responsible for computerization. An MBA in financial management saw him move into consultancy and software designing decision support systems in what became Data Sciences where he became a General Manager (creating MURCO) and the Corporate Business Development Manager where he created the Genus Program (and integration of JAD/RAD, Object Orientation and Legacy Management) which was one of the main components in the turnaround of that company. IBM acquired the company 1997 and after that his more public career started.


Sense making
Knowledge Management
Complexity Science applied to organizations

Cognitive Edge – Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, 2004 – Present
Cynefin Centre IBM – Director, 2002 – 2004
IBM, Director Institute for Knowledge Management, 2000 – 2002
Data Sciences, 1984 – 1997

Middlesex University – MBA, Financial Management, 1985
Lancaster University – BA, Philosophy, 1975

Continues in source (LinkedIn account required):

via and Dave Gurteen’s newsletter

Improvisation Blog: Does cybernetics understand complexity?

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Does cybernetics understand complexity?

I’m writing a paper about music at the moment and questioning my understanding of the word “complex”. That’s a bit embarrassing for someone who considers themselves a cybernetician – a subject which is fundamentally concerned with complexity. This is a moment where I have to ask myself if I really understand what “complex” means.

This is the definition of complexity that I have believed up until this point, in a beautifully argued explanation by Ross Ashby:

“The word ‘complex’, as it may be applied to systems, has many possible meanings, and I must first make my use of it clear. There is no obvious or preeminent meaning, for although all would agree that the brain is complex and a bicycle simple, one has also to remember that to a butcher the brain of a sheep is simple while a bicycle, if studied exhaustively (as the only clue to a crime) may present a very great quantity of significant detail. Without further justification, I shall follow, in this paper, an interpretation of ‘complexity’ that I have used and found suitable for about ten years. I shall measure the degree of ‘complexity’ by the quantity of information required to describe the vital system. To the neurophysiologist the brain, as a feltwork of fibers and a soup of enzymes, is certainly complex; and equally the transmission of a detailed description of it would require much time. To a butcher the brain is simple, for he has to distinguish it from only about thirty other ‘meats’, so not more than log2 30, i.e., about five bits, are involved. This method admittedly makes a system’s complexity purely relative to a given observer; it rejects the attempt to measure an absolute, or intrinsic, complexity; but this acceptance of complexity as something in the eye of the beholder is, in my opinion, the only workable way of measuring complexity.” (Ashby, 1973 – “Some peculiarities of Complex Systems”, Cybernetic Medicine, Vol 9, no. 1)

On the face of it, this is perfectly sensible. But there are things in life which are not like bicycles or brains, butchers or detectives.

If I was to point to three problems with Ashby’s view, they are:

  1. The problem of reference and meaning: Ashby sees information as being about something – the brain to the butcher is information about something, just as it is to the brain surgeon.
  2. The problem of ergodicity – Ashby’s examples are inanimate and static in the information they present – but nothing in life is really like this, and neither are observers (or what a friend of mine calls “systems of reference”). Whatever information is conveyed and how we think about information is not ergodic. That means that the features of its “alphabet” are different from one moment to the next.
  3. The problem of the non-arbitrariness of the diachronic emergence of understanding. This is the really tricky one, but basically the fact that human agree on distinctions, that we are capable of love, that somehow we resonate with each other in the face of phenomena is not the product of a kind of random search for coherence in the manner of Ashby’s “homeostat”. There seems to be some underlying principle which guides it.

Music and education are where these problems become most apparent. Bach’s music, for example, is often called “complex” because of its counterpoint. But if you examine it closely, all Bach’s music is simply an elaboration of chords which are rather like a hymn. And what Bach does with the chords is not to add entropy (or disorder); instead, he adds and overlays new patterns, or redundancies! His complexity arises from the interaction of redundancy. If he added entropy, the music would never have any coherence. But there’s something else. These emergent patterns are not random. Each of them appears to be a re-articulation of some fundamental symmetry which is expressed through the whole thing – even when they appear to be initially “surprising”. The music is holographic in the way that Bohm describes. Its aesthetic closure appears to be arrived at when sufficient redundant descriptions are overlaid and coordinate rather like different colours of the spectrum combine to make white light.

Cybernetics has no understanding of how this might happen as far as I can see. We need something else.

1 comment:

Paul Hollins said…

As ever Mark a thought provoking post. although on this occasion I’m not sure that I agree with your conclusion from a cybernetic perspective.

Ashby’s position on complexity was a useful starting point in cybernetics but Beer took Ashby’s position much further and I would argue Beer’s positions that did not assume ergodic states in information, quite the contrary, Beer suggested regulation , amplification or attenuation to achieve a homeostatic system state surely if the assumption was ergodic little or no regulation would be required. Beer talks in his example of humans and rope tension of the unpredictability, randomness of the complex system and how this is amplified the larger (more complex humans contributing) it becomes. I like the concept of not random emergent patterns you present in the musical context which is broadly form my perspective is evident in most ecological systems.

Thanks Mark and a re -read of Beer !

Comments please in course: Improvisation Blog: Does cybernetics understand complexity?

Latest issue of Adaptive Behavior!

Dr. Tom Froese

The latest issue of Adaptive Behavior is out with a nice mix of content.

I picked the article by Julian Kiverstein and Erik Rietveld on “Reconceiving representation-hungry cognition: an ecological-enactive proposal” as my editor’s pick, so it’s available for free!

View original post

Daniel Schmachtenberger – Solving The Generator Functions of Existential Risks, Part 1 — Future Thinkers Podcast — Overcast

[very interesting podcast – he certainly packs a lot in!]
FTP057: Daniel Schmachtenberger – Solving The Generator Functions of Existential Risks, Part 1
July 17, 2018
Daniel Schmachtenberger talks about the underlying generator functions of existential risks and how we can solve them. Show notes: This episode is sponsored by: Support Future Thinkers: Check out our merch store:

Calvin Pava’s Legacy: Sociotechnical Systems Design for the “Digital Coal Mines” – Douglas Austrom and Carolyn Ordowich

[Thanks to David Ing]
Calvin Pava
Sociotechnical Systems Design for the “Digital Coal Mines”
Douglas Austrom, Ph.D.
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University (
Carolyn Ordowich STS Associates, Princeton, NJ (
Submitted to:
Enduring Thoughts of the Thinkers of Organizational Change
Palgrave Macmillan
Change Thinkers
(publication 2018)

Calvin Pava made an extraordinary contribution to the future of work design and organizational change in the 21st century. He reconceptualized traditional STS methodology for nonroutine work analysis and design as the design of deliberations and discretionary coalitions focused on collaboration among disparate people where tension, disagreement, and conflict improve the value of the ideas, expose the risks inherent in the plan, and lead to enhanced trust among the participants. Pava provided us with a model for a flexible and scalable organizational architecture based on the precepts of self-regulation; it is a template for combining and integrating self-managing work teams (routine work), project teams (hybrid work) and discretionary coalitions (non-routine work) into a “network” organization. He also recognized that our increasingly turbulent environment requires viewing organizational change less as an event and more as an ongoing dynamic of iterative design.

Pava’s work in the 1970’s and early 1980’s is also an especially effective fit for the 21st century and a digital era that requires tapping into networks of value, connecting information sources, and bridging internal as well as external boundaries. He foresaw addressing more complex problems with sociotechnical design enhanced by information and communication technology leading to more robust solutions. But Pava also recognized the dilemma advanced technology posed: it could be designed for the flourishing of mankind or to manipulate people and engender passivity in the rest of society, and he strongly warned us to exercise organizational choice in order to disobey the new digital technocratic imperative.

Key Words
Sociotechnical Systems Design, Non-routine Knowledge Work, Deliberations, Discretionary Coalitions, Technocratic Imperative

Calvin Pava’s Legacy: Sociotechnical Systems Design for the “Digital Coal Mines”. Available from:’s_Legacy_Sociotechnical_Systems_Design_for_the_Digital_Coal_Mines [accessed Aug 09 2018].