The Critical Geospatial Research Lab at Dartmouth College explores how geospatial data, media, and technologies can reflect, further, and even challenge differential axes of power. Through an approach that prioritizes collaboration, we apply a critical lens to simultaneously analyze existing geospatial infrastructures and advance new research practices that are theoretically rich and grounded in frameworks of justice.
Digital Political Economy
This area of research encompasses various projects that bring a political economic lens to digital technologies, with particular attention to the spatial dimension. These projects explore questions such as the creation of new digital markets, the legal frameworks for the commodification of data, and the economic geographic impacts of new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and small and micro satellites. Through a critical perspective that combines various methods and theoretical approaches, we are interested in shedding light on how digital technologies contribute to shape spaces, how spaces are continuously shaped by these technologies, and who has power over these processes.
Geospatial data, media, and technologies are being used at unprecedented levels and in increasingly complex contexts, directly and indirectly impacting our everyday lives. Power structures are encoded within these data and technologies, which shapes differential, uneven, and unjust spatial geometries. We use and analyze geospatial tools to address questions of power and difference across a range of areas. Through this work, we aim to unsettle, disrupt, and reimagine dominant approaches to open data, remote sensing, map design, and spatial justice.
Maps and geospatial data like satellite imagery saturate digital journalism. Despite the ubiquity of mapping in journalism, we know little about the politics and processes of their creation, how they have changed over time, and the broader impact of news maps o on our understandings complex spatial stories. Drawing our backgrounds in data journalism and critical mapping, we explore the everyday processes for mapping the news as well as the everyday encounters with news maps.
- Counter-Mapping the Spaces of Autonomous Driving (Luis F. Alvarez León 2019)
- A Blueprint for Market Construction? (Luis F. Alvarez León 2018)
Political Economy of Spatial Data Infrastructures (Luis F. Alvarez León 2018)
Media & Outreach
- Who Will Control the Data for Automous Vehicles? (Digital Journal 2019)
- The Self-Driving Car is a Surveillance Tool (IEEE 2019)
- Mapping Bodies, Designing Feminist Icons (Meghan Kelly 2021)
- Climate Vulnerability Mapping (Park Muhonda 2019)
- The Value of Crowdsourced Street-Level Imagery (Luis F. Alvarez León 2018)
- Production, Property, and the Construction of Remote Sensing Data (Luis F. Alvarez León 2018)
Media & Outreach
- Ethical Spatial Analytics Panel (Luis F. Alvarez León 2021)
- Feminist Icon Design Workshop (Meghan Kelly 2021)
- Mapping Syrian Refugee Border Crossings (Meghan Kelly 2019)
- Will Review for Points: The Unpaid Affective Labour of Placemaking (Luis F. Alvarez León 2019)
Media & Outreach
Luis F. Alvarez León
Luis F. Alvarez León (Ph.D., UCLA 2016) is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Dartmouth College. He is a political economic geographer with substantive interests in geospatial data, media, and technologies. His work integrates the geographic, political, and regulatory dimensions of digital economies under capitalism with an emphasis on technologies that manage, represent, navigate, and commodify space. Ongoing research projects examine the geographic transformations surrounding the emergence of autonomous vehicles and the industrial and geopolitical reconfigurations resulting from the proliferation of small satellites.
Research AreasCritical GIS, Economic Geography, Digital Economy
Park Muhonda (Ph.D., West Virginia University 2019) is a geographer with interest in multidisciplinary research, employing a mixed methods approach – geospatial analysis, qualitative and quantitative methods. Recently, his research has focused on understanding how people in rural areas are exposed to specific shocks in Malawi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Niger and Bangladesh. His PhD dissertation (West Virginia University, 2019) takes a political ecological approach to understand socioeconomic and political conditions that underlie differential livelihoods vulnerability to climate and economic change in rural Malawi. Park is current working with Dr. Luis Alvarez León on a project that uses a combination of geospatial analysis and just transition analysis to understand the spatial and socio-economic dimensions and implications of energy transition. Park did his MSc in Integrated Water Resources Management. He also worked as a project manager at the Church and Society Programme.
Research AreasCritical GIS, Political Ecology, Energy
Meghan Kelly (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin 2020) works at the intersections of mapping, feminist theory, and digital storytelling. She applies feminist principles across spatial data, map design, and mapping processes to reveal and challenge systems of power and oppression. This often takes place in collaborative workshop settings. She has applied this feminist mapping lens to migration stories, border symbolization, tiny map icons, incarceration and policing, the climate crises, and housing insecurity. She is currently exploring the role of maps in digital storytelling, feminist map symbolization, and ethics in GeoAI.
Research AreasFeminist Mapping, Critical GIS, Visual Storytelling, and Critical GeoAI
Madeleine Morris is a second year student at Dartmouth College. Although she has yet to declare a major, she is considering Hispanic Studies or Sociology while pursuing a career in medicine. Madeleine is interested in social justice issues in relation to technological developments. Recently, her paper examining the effects of autonomous vehicles on racialized policing was awarded the Adam N. Brown ‘97 Memorial Award in Geography. Currently, Madeleine is working with Dr. Luis Alvarez León on a project exploring the role of automation in labor relations within the gig economy.
Janice Kai Chen
Janice Chen is a cartographer and writer interested in using maps to visualize spatial processes, or the ways unique geographies are produced by structural forces. Most recently, her work explores how rural landscapes are shaped by pastoral ideals and the complex political economies of agriculture. She is a recent graduate of Dartmouth College. At Critical Geospatial, she interviewed journalists about their use of satellite imagery and explored the politics of remote sensing. Currently, she is a Master’s student in Geography at the University of Oregon and a cartographer at the Infographics Lab.
Research AreasCritical GIS and Visual Storytelling