Module M13 - Participatory Internet-based Mapping

Unit M13U03 - Risks and Limitations of Internet-based Mapping


While Internet-based mapping can be an effective and inexpensive way to document and present community spatial knowledge, there are risks and limitations to this method that community members and practitioners need to be conscious of before they invest in developing such a system. Armed with an awareness of some of the limitations, map makers may be able to mitigate potential problems before they occur. This Unit discusses specific risks and limitations related to Internet-based participatory mapping that are associated with sharing spatial knowledge through the Internet.

Topics include issues of representation, how best to symbolise an idea or a set of beliefs within the scope of the available technologies and how to protect this information once it is presented on the Web. The question of how to control dissemination is addressed, including who has access to maps once these have been created and who has the right to add or modify data (e.g. community members, facilitators, etc.).

A discussion follows regarding intellectual property and how this relates to Web-based mapping. Limitations that are associated with this kind of Internet-based mapping are elaborated upon, including the capacity of Web-based tools to adequately represent local knowledge, constraints associated with using technologies that are constantly evolving and needing access to the tools used to create these maps.

See also some case studies in the Exercise included in this Unit.

Unit objectives / expected outcomes

After the completion of the Unit the trainee will be able to:

  • discuss the limitations of Internet-based mapping;
  • prevent negative situations within local perspectives;
  • discuss implications in the management of an Internet map;
  • outline possibilities for protecting online information;
  • suggest measures for protecting intellectual property rights.

Content outline, main topics covered and suggested sequencing

This Unit focuses on the topics listed below:

  1. Benefits and limitations of Internet mapping (20 minutes)
  2. Privacy and the Web: How to protect information on the Internet (15 minutes)
  3. Web/mastering and dissemination (5 minutes)
  4. Property rights and Internet maps (10 minutes)
  5. Specific issues: Communities and Web; Non-password protected knowledge (10 minutes)

Components of the Unit


Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in printed format):



1 hr

Additional trainer resources

  • Gutman M.P. 2008. Putting People on the Map: Protecting Confidentiality with Linked Social-Spatial Data. The National Academic Press, Washington DC, USA

Equipment needed

Beamer and one computer for the presenter

Additional downloads