Mapping Campus Safety

Today I did a short interview with Russell Kirkpatrick. As I promised yesterday, he has a very interesting day job – he is a professional cartographer. That’s kind of useful if you write fat fantasy novels, but Russell’s real work is much more adventurous. We talked about ways in which maps can be used to reinforce or subvert social power dynamics, and there is one story I would particularly like to share with you.

Russell works in a university, and the campus was having a problem with rapes. At first the university authorities refused to do anything about this, so Russell got together with the local feminist group and produced a map of the campus graded by how safe women felt in each area. This “scientific evidence” was all that was necessary to get the authorities to take action. Truly, maps are powerful things.

6 thoughts on “Mapping Campus Safety

  1. That is fantastic. I love to hear this sort of evidence. It gives you hope that all you have to do is provide all the information that you need, and then something can be done. It is kind of like applying for grants for out-there feminist projects. If you can use the right words, in the format that the officials understand, you can make things happen. Yay to Russell and the local feminist group.

  2. It’s not a matter of scientific evidence so much as clever and effective visual presentation of numbers. Qualifying the quantitative, if you will. It’s very persuasive when done this well.

  3. Robert:

    There’s a reason I put scare quotes around “scientific evidence”. You and I might know that’s not really what is going on, but to a bunch of male college administrators the ability to spin the presentation as “scientific evidence” can be quite important, if only for self-delusion.

    Thanks for the book recommendation.

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