Neo-cadastres: innovative solution for land users without state based land rights, or just reflections of institutional isomorphism?

W.T. de Vries, R.M. Bennett, J.A. Zevenbergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


In many countries, authority for maintaining records of land ownership lies with national or state institutes, called 'cadastres' or 'land registries'. The emergence of volunteered geographic information (VGI) and crowdsourcing potentially challenges this state based authority, enabling the construction of 'neo'-cadastres (using the analogy of 'neo'geography). Individual citizens can themselves map and record land tenure rights. This paper explores if and how VGI and crowdsourcing may redefine the state based cadastres and land registries, and the roles of land users who claim land rights outside of the state based institutions. Using theories of institutions and isomorphism we hypothesise that a parallel exists between emerging open systems and situations where no state-based cadastre exists: participants in both situations will position themselves to protect their interests. Three cases from Ghana, Canada, and Indonesia demonstrate how land users indicate their land tenure right boundaries based on personal views (the neo-cadastre), rather than on rules stipulated by a national authority (the traditional cadastre). In each case land users root their behaviour partly in local dependency relations and social advocacy networks. These locally embedded rules may not necessarily coincide with hierarchical institutional relations. Even in participatory adjudication activities conducted under the authority of national cadastres, land users are not completely free in providing their land boundaries. Instead, they adhere to certain locally embedded microsocial conventions. We conclude that VGI and crowdsourced based neo-cadastres will likely redefine, from passive to active, the roles of land users in cadastres. This creates an opportunity for citizens, but also a potential risk. Where implicit rules of the neo-cadastre do not co-evolve with traditional cadastral institutions, conflicts of land information and access to land may emerge. Neo-cadastres will be an artefact of this dissatisfaction, and may reflect new directions for cadastral institutions. Neo-cadastres will not be a direct trigger for wider cadastral change, but a piece of evidence that change and resistance are occurring
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-229
Number of pages10
JournalSurvey review
Issue number342
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2015


  • METIS-304667


Dive into the research topics of 'Neo-cadastres: innovative solution for land users without state based land rights, or just reflections of institutional isomorphism?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this