Mapping people, knowledge and data in times of Crisis

Mapping people, knowledge and data in times of Crisis
20 November 2020, 6.00pm - 7.30pm

In moments of crisis we often turn to data in an attempt to both understand the situation we are in, and look for answers of how to escape.

Yet 2020 has also highlighted the dangers of this. The interpretations and collection of this data are not without their problems – doctors and politicians looking at the same data can draw wildly different conclusions about the right course of action.

While these practices are newly confronting to many, such technologies – and their failings – have long been used to shape the lives, and deaths, of millions around the world. In the digital age, mapping and data continue to be seen as a fix-all. More people than ever are subjected to having their lives dictated not by elected officials, but by black box algorithms, maps, and data visualisations. As our attempts to hold the pandemic at bay continue, we must look at lessons from other crises and push for a more just world.

In this panel discussion to launch Mapping Crisis we discuss how data can mislead, and why understanding how this happens is a huge step in the right direction for our chances of using data to improve the lives of millions of people around the world, and indeed to tackling global crisis such as COVID-19. Join Doug Specht (Westminster), Faine Greenwood (Harvard), Amy Dickens (Essex), Rupert Allan (independent) and hosted by Damien Short (ICwS, UoL) as we dig into the darkest issues of our time.  

Doug Specht is a Chartered Geographer (CGeog. FRGS), a Senior Lecturer (SFHEA) and the Director of Teaching and Learning in the School of Media and Communication at the University of Westminster. His research examines how knowledge is constructed and codified through digital and cartographic artefacts, focusing on development issues in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, where he has carried out extensive fieldwork. He speaks and writes on topics of data ethics, development, education and mapping practices at conferences and invited lectures around the world.

Faine Greenwood is a humanitarian technology researcher and writer, with a particular focus on drone technology, remote sensing, and spatial data ethics. Greenwood has previously conducted research on operational uses for drone technology, humanitarian aid, and data ethics at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Signal Program, New America, the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, the American Red Cross, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Amy Dickens is a Doctoral Researcher on the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology project at the University of Essex. Her research explores the right to health implications of data sharing between public health systems and technology companies, with a particular focus on the controversial partnership between the UK National Health Service and Google's DeepMind Health. Her research interests span technology and human rights, socio-economic rights, business and human rights, political economy, anthropology and sociology. 

Rupert Allan has been engaged in interventional design and extreme field operations since 1988. His work is characterised by creative innovation and negotiation in crisis environments across humanitarian disaster and film production. He holds a master’s degree in visual culture and anthropology from the University of Wales and associates his research with the University of Wales, the Royal Geographic Society and Médecins sans frontières, Manson Research Unit, London

Richard Allan has spent his long and prestigious career working across both public and privates sectors, from healthcare and politics to big tech corporations and social media firms. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and a member of the House of Lords. In 2005, Richard moved away from politics to work in the tech sector for Cisco and Facebook. He now runs Regulate Tech that specialises in technology policy issues including privacy and data use, content regulation, the conduct of politics online, competition, tax and connectivity.


Professor Damien Short is Director of the Human Rights Consortium (HRC) and a Professor of Human Rights and Environmental Justice at the School of Advanced Study. He has spent his entire professional career working in the field of human rights and environmental justice, both as a scholar and advocate. He has researched and published extensively in the areas of indigenous peoples’ rights, genocide studies, reconciliation projects and environmental human rights. He is currently researching the human rights impacts of extreme energy processes (e.g Tar Sands and Fracking - see our designated HRC website Professor Short is a regular academic contributor to the United Nation’s ‘Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ and an academic consultant for the ‘Ethical Trade Task Force’ of the Soil Association. 

We will share a link to access the Zoom event to those registered on the day of the event.


SAS Events Office
020 7862 8833