Tom Torres* - University of North Georgia
Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PGIS) in the context of rural development has generated mixed results. Central to PGIS are issues of access, ownership, and engagement with policy makers. However, PGIS does not easily incorporate non-traditional knowledge. Additionally, the relationship between technicians and local experts is often an unequal one. The methodology presented in this paper addresses some of the weakness of PGIS by bridging the gap between the local expert and the GIS technician. This methodology incorporates and encourages local participation and empowers residents to create the social framework needed for community leadership and ownership of local mapping initiatives, a fundamental way to be defined in the world. Using a system that incorporates multimedia successfully facilitated this process and helped reconcile a traditionally oral culture with the documentation required for a functioning GIS. This paper's methodology was collaboratively designed in the Alabama Black Belt community of Gee's Bend in Alabama and is used for participatory monitoring, evaluation and narrative production in support of community-based tourism. Lastly, this paper highlights some of the problems of PGIS, namely, the inherently unequal relationship between GIS technology and local knowledge.