Paper2GIS: improving accessibility without limiting analytical potential in Participatory Mapping

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Participatory Mapping encompasses a broad spectrum of methods, each with advantages and limitations that can influence the degree to which the target audience is able to participate and the veracity of the data collected. Whilst being an efficient means to gather spatial data, the accessibility of online methods is limited by digital divides. Conversely, whilst non-digital approaches are more accessible to participants, data collected in this way are typically more challenging to analyse and often necessitate researcher interpretation, limiting their use in decision-making. We therefore present ‘Paper2GIS’, a novel sketch mapping tool that automatically extracts mark-up drawn onto paper maps and stores it in a geospatial database. The approach embodied in our tool simultaneously limits the technical burden placed on the participant and generates data comparable to that of a digital system without the subjectivity of manual digitisation. This improves accessibility, whilst simultaneously facilitating spatial analyses that are usually not possible with paper-based mapping exercises. A case study is presented to address two energy planning questions of the residents in the Outer Hebrides, UK. The results demonstrate that accessibility can be improved without impacting the potential for spatial analysis, widening participation to further democratise decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geographical Systems
Early online date1 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • Digital divides
  • Participatory Mapping
  • Sketch mapping


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