Community Mapping Project: ‘Re-imagining Life on the Road’

Just Knowledge research partner: Galway Traveller Movement

This blog post focuses on one of the three community partners participating in the Just Knowledge research project, namely the Galway Traveller Movement, reporting on progress to date.

Just Knowledge: aim & methodology

My GO-GN Fellowship project ‘Just Knowledge’ is an exploratory, community-focused, open knowledge research project. Just Knowledge aims to partner with community-based knowledge initiatives to (i) understand their current aims and challenges, (ii) study the use of digital and open approaches to accomplish those aims, and (iii) together explore ideas for context-appropriate, equity-focused, open approaches to knowledge sharing. Currently, three community-based knowledge initiatives have chosen to engage with the ‘Just Knowledge’ project as research partners. This post features work undertaken with one of these partners, the Galway Traveller Movement.

The Just Knowledge project operates from three core principles: justice, equity and openness – rather than leading with the sole aim of enabling openness. To ensure this, the underlying principles of the project are drawn from Data Feminism, an approach to data ethics informed by intersectional feminism (D’Ignazio & Klein, 2020); these seven principles are: examine power; challenge power; elevate emotion and embodiment; rethink binaries and hierarchies; embrace pluralism; consider context; and make labour visible. Foundational to the project is an ethos of partnership between community initiative and researcher. Any recommendations will arise from that partnership, i.e. from consideration of each initiative’s aims/challenges and collaborative exploration of ideas for context-appropriate, equity-focused, open approaches to knowledge sharing.

Galway Traveller Movement

Galway Traveller Movement (GTM) is an independent Traveller organisation in Galway – a partnership of Travellers and non-Travellers who work to challenge and respond to structural inequalities experienced by the Traveller community in Galway.

GTM’s vision is full equality, social justice and human rights for members of the Traveller community, and meaningful participation of Travellers in social, economic, political and cultural life.

GTM’s mission is to challenge discrimination and racism experienced by the Traveller community in Galway city and county, to challenge the status quo and to empower members of the Traveller community to take action to realise Traveller rights.

GTM community mapping project

‘Reimagining Life on the Road’ is a community mapping project of traditional Traveller camp sites in Galway City and County. The project is a collaboration between GTM and the Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) at the National University of Ireland Galway. The aim of the GTM mapping project is to gather and document Traveller heritage related to traditional sites in Galway, including capturing the community’s memories and stories before they are lost. The first phase of work was undertaken in 2019. Stories and photographs were gathered from the Galway Traveller community about traditional camping (or “pull on pull off”) sites. These were represented on a physical (oil cloth) map showing 42 traditional camping sites.

In 2022, it was decided to undertake phase 2 of the GTM mapping project: (i) gathering additional stories, photographs and site locations, and (ii) developing a digital map to record, share and protect the information gathered. This collaborative effort has a strong focus on framing the work within a human rights and equality-based framework. A Traveller-led team is overseeing the project and a participatory action research approach is being used to gather stories and oral histories.

Just Knowledge partnership with GTM mapping project

The GTM community mapping project is a long-term project of the Galway Traveller Movement. My collaboration with GTM, as part of the GO-GN Just Knowledge project, has been to engage with this project during one critical phase of its development, i.e. moving from a physical map to a digital map – including consideration of issues related to digital mapping, sharing and archiving. Additional details are described below.

I contacted GTM just after Phase 2 of the mapping project had begun, and the team agreed that a partnership would be possible. The team generously shared their time to explain the overall aims of GTM, their wide range of work, and the community mapping project. These discussions made clear how integral the mapping project is to the culture and heritage work of GTM, residing clearly within a human rights framework.

I shared the plan to create a GTM digital map as part of my ‘Just Knowledge’ fellowship presentation at the OER22 Conference, inviting feedback, ideas and links to other Indigenous mapping projects (blogged here). These ideas and other digital mapping projects (e.g. the Pavee Roads Home project, also exploring Traveller culture and heritage in Ireland, and the Genius Loci mapping project in Lithuania) have provided a useful knowledge base for understanding the broader issues re community mapping projects, particularly for marginalised communities.

Together as a GTM/Just Knowledge team, we have explored ideas for context-appropriate, equity-focused, open approaches to knowledge sharing for the GTM mapping project, agreeing the following:

  • Google maps would be used as a digital mapping tool, to create a ‘proof of concept’ of a digital map, with editing privileges shared amongst the team.
  • The digital map would be designed to be shared publicly; GTM would retain copyright ownership of the map.
  • Existing data on Traveller camping site locations would be transferred from the original physical map to a Google map.
  • Additional site locations and metadata (photographs, recorded stories, etc.) would be gathered from the Traveller community by the GTM team and then added to the digital map.
  • Clear consent procedures would be used to ensure consent for the use of all data added to the map. This is often challenging, but especially important, for old photographs.
  • A simple online register of all additions/changes to map data would be maintained, so that progress would be visible across the team, and not lost.
  • Formal engagement with NUI Galway Library would be initiated to explore archiving of the GTM digital map and associated metadata on an ongoing basis, in order to ensure data integrity and security, as well as to maximise findability by researchers and other communities globally.

What next

Work on the map is progressing a full description of aims, issues, outcomes and impact will be included in the GO-GN Fellowship final report for Just Knowledge.

In addition, progress on the mapping project will be presented at two upcoming events:


Deepest thanks to all at the Galway Traveller Movement for the opportunity to collaborate on this project.

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