Observing a Global Pandemic from Space: Evaluating Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PGIS) during the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic

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Virginia Tech

When the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged in December 2019, GIS technologies and web-based GIS dashboards were rapidly employed to share information regarding disease spread and impact on society. As GIS-based tools are capable of providing spatial complexity, interactivity, and interconnectedness, its growth in popularity to help solve multifaceted problems has also grown. These efforts from citizens and scientists alike to engage in Participatory GIS (PGIS) were essential for timely and effective epidemic monitoring and response. However, the original intent of PGIS to involve the public in geographical mapping to uncover context-sensitive place-based information (Brown & Kyttä, 2014) has also created discrepancies such as ignoring the sociopolitical context of data and disregards common geovisualization best practices. The goal of this poster aims to evaluate the challenges of PGIS in analyzing data as it was used during the current global pandemic by exploring COVIDPoops19, a PGIS dashboard tracking wastewater testing as well as describing potential solutions from interdisciplinary frameworks that allow for better decision making, planning, and community action.