International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Second Edition): Humanitarian Mapping

Elsevier, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Second Edition), 2020, Pages 121-128
Jonathan Cinnamon

Humanitarian mapping refers to the production of spatial data and cartographic products to improve situational awareness and decision-making around humanitarian issues from acute events such as natural disasters and public health emergencies to longer term events such as refugee crises and political unrest. Mapping is a key part of the broader area of humanitarian information management, which has traditionally been undertaken by governments and international humanitarian organizations. As a core aspect of the field of digital humanitarianism, mapping activities are now widely undertaken by smaller organizations and networks of volunteers who produce spatial data and maps on the ground and remotely via the use of Web mapping and mobile phone technologies. Big data based on location and behavioral attributes produced online and through interaction with digital systems and networks can also be exploited to enhance information environments. Together, these new developments signal new possibilities for improved risk and crisis management, based on up-to-date high resolution spatial and temporal evidence. Research in human geography, geographic information science, and related disciplines focuses on tracing benefits such as increased speed and low costs, as well as the risks of relying on distributed volunteers and new sources of data of questionable accuracy and validity.