I will present a paper at this year’s Association of American Geographers conference in New York. My presentation is titled, “Mapping Virtual Communities: Cultural Imaginaries of the Diaspora and the Production of Crisis Maps.” I will be a part of the panel titled, “Communicating Through Crisis” that meets on Sunday, February 26 at 12:40pm in Concourse F in the Hilton.
Here’s my abstract:
When a massive earthquake hit the island country of Haiti in 2010, most emergency response organizations were unable to navigate through the destroyed landscape since many of the roads in the area had not been adequately mapped by major digital mapping distributors like Google. In response, a community of open source developers created a platform for the creation of “crisis maps” of Haiti, which included specifics about emergencies and individual needs throughout the country. The primary cartographers and translators for this project were people worldwide who were part of the Haitian diaspora. The practices of this diaspora as a “virtual community” served as a way to respond to the traumas of their homeland through cartographic practices. By mapping the spaces and traumas of Haiti, the diaspora produced the embodied space they inhabited as a virtual community in a time in which their identities were pulled between distance and intimacy. They sought to bridge this distance by contributing to the representation of a place that has a multiplicity of connections for the diaspora: for some, they mapped the streets they once called home; for others, they mapped a space that had always been “virtual,” a homeland they had never seen but belonged to through a common cultural imaginary. Thus, the representations created by the diaspora fundamentally affected the practice of this space as a distant homeland.