nificant also is the development of sense-of-community GIS through local
user groups, who work independently of any government group. These
grassroots GIS may become very significant in the development of capabili-
ties for local groups to develop and use existing GI and help foster a commu-
nity sense of place, which has had important political, social, and economic
A key challenge for PGIS is the explicit integration of local knowledge.
This enables powerful and insightful analyses, but runs the risk of making
information available in forms that other people and groups may appropri-
ate without accounting for the people who develop and nurture local knowl-
edge, often over generations. For example, identifying the location of a site
used for religious rituals may enable unscrupulous relic traders to find a pro-
spective site and disturb or possibly destroy it, much as tomb raiders
destroyed many Egyptian tombs.
PGIS, once implemented, can help local groups take on government
functions. This can be a two-edged sword. On the one side, the use of GI and
maps can be empowering and help communities cope with changes and
make plans for the future. On the other side, the use of GI and maps often
requires the training of experts who can limit access to these resources, in
effect creating a new elite. The problems of incorporating GI and maps from
people with various backgrounds can be especially challenging.
GI and Map Misuses
“All maps lie” is the statement made by the cartographer Mark Monmonier,
drawing on the idea behind the classic topic How to Lie with Statistics . Most
cartographers would like to put this away as a simple “white lie” that masks
the important and complicated work done by cartographers in making maps.
As we have read earlier in the chapter, however, there are substantial differ-
ences between the distortions necessary to improve cartographic communi-
cation and the distortions that erase and obfuscate relevant things and
events from the cartographic representation. We need to be able to distin-
guish between acceptable and unacceptable cartographic representations. In
other words, we need to know when GI and maps are misused, or, in the
extreme case, when GI or maps are propaganda.
When Is Distortion Propaganda?
Taking the definition that propaganda is information manipulated to fit par-
ticular ideological, political, or social goals with a malicious intent, then the
distortion of any cartographic representation based on a person's or a
group's ideological, political, or social goals makes for propaganda GI or
maps. Examples are all too commonplace. Certainly, examples from Nazi
Germany or the Cold War are blatant, but other examples can be drawn
from advertising and political publications we find everyday. Following
Denis Wood's profound unveiling of the power of maps, we may be inclined