At a recent faculty gathering on community engagement, I was asked to provide some examples of how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is being used to support different social justice initiatives. While there are many examples, I didn’t have much time to share, so I highlighted just a few compelling examples, which are shown below.
If you’re interested in learning more about GIS and social justice, these resources are a great place to start, although I find the inequity that the maps reveal to be very disheartening.
- The Revolution Will Be Mapped – This article gives an overview and describes some recent cases in which maps played a key role in highlighting discriminatory practices in the provision of public services.
- Redlining Maps –If you click on an area, especially those in red, you can see the disturbing (stunning, actually) area descriptions–circa 1930.
- Million Dollar Blocks – NPR highlighted the Justice Mapping Center’s work on visually representing incarceration rates and costs. Million dollar blocks are “areas where more than $1 million is being spent annually to incarcerate the residents of a single census block.” The maps are being used to identify areas for establishment of re-entry programs. You can check out data for Greenville County by zip code and census block here. Click on the state, then the county for details.
- Maps of Highly Segregated Cities – Each map provides a dissimilarity index. “A score above 60 on the dissimilarity index is considered very high segregation.” The symbology is very powerful. For New Orleans, you can clearly see the high elevation area along the river that geographer Richard Campanella refers to as the “white teapot.”
- Underbounding – I happened upon this term while doing a little research for the session. This is a practice by which certain groups (usually poor minorities) are excluded from annexation and associated services.
- Dividing Lines: School Districts in the US – This map shows how current educational funding practices limit fair access.
- Social Explorer – Our library is currently evaluating a subscription to Social Explorer, which should make it much easier to use the browser to map demographic data going all the way back to the 1790 Census. No desktop software required.