Crowdsourcing Women’s Experiences of Space: Empowerment, (In)Visibility, and Exclusions – A Critical Reading of Safetipin Map

Trang Le – Monash University

Platform: Journal of Media and Communication
Volume 9.1, Visuality: Truth and Politics (2022): pp. 43 – 55


As a crowdsourced visual-based technique, participatory mapping has generally been lauded as an innovative method to identify place-based inequities and shape a more inclusive urban world. In the context of sexual violence in public spaces, there is a growing number of mapping initiatives that aim to advocate for spatial justice by involving women in collaborative map production. These initiatives train women to use geographic information system (GIS) to visualise women’s spatial knowledge grounded in their experience of navigating public spaces. Using Safetipin, an Indian-based mapping initiative, as a case study, I seek to challenge the simplistic reading that the crowdsourced map provides a transparent pathway to understanding spatial patterns of gender violence in urban space. I argue that this street-level mapping is a performative technique insofar as it materialises our experiences in different ways. Most importantly, it renders an imagination of space as operational—that is, calculable and malleable space that can be operated upon to prevent sexual violence. Significantly, as its visualisation of spatial distribution of safety reterritorialises public spaces, it reproduces other forms of socio-economic exclusion. This article thus argues for a reading of the crowdsourced map not as an inherently politically transformative project. Instead, it calls for an acknowledgment of hegemonic regimes of knowledge production that feminist activism like the Safetipin map is intimately bound up with and may help reproduce. Consequently, this involves attending to diverse regimes of (in)visibilities and marginalisation that such projects may stage.


sexual violence; crowdsourced mapping; (in)visibility; spatial justice; performativity

Download PDF