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2.4.1 Digital cultural asset mapping

Lee and Gilmore (2012) argue that cultural mapping sits within a positivist empirical methodology. It is a process by which the cultural assets of an area are mapped using a computerised mapping system and including both hard and soft assets (Lee, 2009), meaning that the festivals and activities which take place in an area (soft assets) are just as important as buildings and spaces (hard assets). Research shows that these ‘soft’ assets can be just as valuable to making the area attractive for the development of further cultural activities and creative industries (Brennan-Horley et al., 2010) so it is important to assess many angles of a place, particularly where current local authority initiatives are emphasising the cultural

character of a place as part of the overall appeal of an area. Using a computerised geographical information system (GIS) tool allows wide dissemination of data, and presentation within an easy to access manner and is a format which is accepted as a type of database on cultural life, well-illustrated, thus:


“Cultural Resource Mapping allows a community to identify “where it’s at” and can play a significant role in assessing “where it wants to be”… If someone were to ask “Yes, but what is it? What’s the actual thing?” the answer would have to be: “It’s a database.” Cultural Resource Mapping begins with building and maintaining a centralized database that helps to organize and communicate information. It is about building a geo- database, meaning that whenever possible, the information includes a geographic reference point.” (Municipal Cultural Planning Incorporated,

2010, p.7)


Cultural mapping in its digital form requires a form of software for its dissemination, and often uses geographical information systems (GIS) to perform this role. The increasing use of GIS technology in geography has long been the subject of discussion (Brennan-Horley et al., 2010, Gibson, Brennan-Horley and Warren, 2010, Coulton, Chan and Mikelbank, 2011, Baker, 2012) and has coined several phrases which attempt to capture the ethos of such projects, including ‘Bottom up GIS’ (Talen, 2000), Public Participation GIS (Weiner, Harris and Craig, 2002), Participatory GIS (Elwood, 2006) and ‘Cartographic storytelling’ (Cartwright and Field, 2015). This latter phrase is the one which is the most appropriate to capture the cultural mapping and digital storytelling work carried out as part of this research due to the encapsulation of mapping and digital storytelling (outlined in section 2.4.4 of this chapter). Public participation GIS (PPGIS) is the approach adopted as this technique specifically acknowledges that maps are made by persons other than the researcher and that this should sit in the ‘participatory research’ field (Weiner, Harris and Craig, 2002, p.1).


Talen (2000) recognises that mapping, particularly GIS, can be a confusing and complex tool, however she also directly challenges this through her work in involving communities to create mapping:

“Bottom-Up GIS (BUGIS)… involves using GIS as a spatial language tool for acquiring local knowledge and communicating residents’ perceptions, rather than conveying only objective facts” (Talen, 2000, p.278)

It is noted in research from the mid 2000’s that the uses of GIS have changed, due to “self- conscious reflexive efforts of some GIS researchers, but also efforts of non traditional user groups to gain access to GIS and adapt it to fit their spatial knowledge, priorities, and needs” (Elwood, 2006, p.294). This highlights both the importance of being an engaged reflective practitioner-researcher (referred to in section 2.3.1), and that community members can, and do use GIS tools for their own purposes. Furthermore, GIS is constantly evolving, and it has been highlighted that tendencies towards geo-enablement in technology brings mapping into everyday activities through more widely used devices such as phones, smart sensors and home hubs, which in turn creates additional public awareness of the value of mapping (Kerski, 2015). More widespread use of geo-tagging, and location-based services in online content and apps is also creating information which can be explored through mapping, both for researchers and for those with a general interest in data and mapping (Gibson, Brennan- Horley and Warren, 2010, Caquard, 2013, Hjorth and Pink, 2014, Jung, 2015).


Crowdsourced projects can become the focus for academic papers and discussion (Gilmore, 2013), form part of a wider toolkit which is designed to inform actions on a place based project (Houghton, Miller and Foth, 2013) or encourage public participation through having a say in funding for cultural projects (Valletta 2018 Foundation, 2012). Crowd sourcing is a technique which permeates modern government activities such as participatory budget setting (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, 2014), forming part of a larger toolkit for regulatory bodies within the participatory governance agenda “Transparent, participatory and informed systems of governance for culture involve a diversity of voices, including civil society and the private sector, in policymaking processes that address the rights and interests of all members of society” (UNESCO, 2014, p.2). Researchers have further highlighted the potential for geo-locational online apps and tools such as HistoryPin to “facilitate memory work through the reminding of previous traces” (Ozkul and Humphreys, 2015, p.13), particularly important given the links to creativity and wellbeing (Mental Health Foundation, 2011, Guell and Ogilvie, 2013). The potential to bring communities of interest together despite geographical distance (Brint, 2001) is key to online projects like HistoryPin:

“There’s a lot of creativity on display here: we’ve seen Historypin used to connect generations in Japan, to draw in rich life stories in Australia and even to inspire a mural in East London” (Historypin, 2013, p.1)


Using digital tools in projects can open up new research avenues and provide rich information on the changing nature of places and assets both for the researcher and

participants themselves (Murthy, 2008, Houghton, Miller and Foth, 2013, Hidalgo, 2015, Ozkul and Humphreys, 2015), and also challenge the traditional notion of what constitutes heritage (Terras, 2011). There is also some evidence that some technology companies base their business model on the need for public input, for example volunteer contributions are beneficial to mapping sites run by Google and Microsoft (Caquard, 2011), and archives have been harnessing the power of crowdsourcing to digitise or transcribe records to allow for widening access to their resources, for this reason digital cultural asset mapping taps into these trends for increased use of technology, geo-location and crowdsourcing (through aiming to make the most of the resources from a researcher point of view, and presenting accessible outputs and community input possibilities from a user and participant point of view). Mapping is moving more towards a storytelling format, rather than stand-alone maps, as there are greater possibilities for integrating imagery, social media posts and interactive features (Cartwright and Field, 2015). It is important to note the reliability of data sources used online, using due diligence to cross check links and information (more than one link is preferable within the cultural map where possible for this reason). Compatibility and legibility across mobile devices is essential. The chosen programme for cultural mapping should be designed to work across as many platforms as possible, and designed with accessibility in mind, for example by enabling the changing of fonts or usability by those who use screen readers. Potential consumers of the mapping may choose to use tablets, mobile devices or desktop computers and may have many different operating systems.

Public computers may not allow access to all the external links such as YouTube and mapping is a data rich activity which may require a particular level of processing power and data availability to work effectively. The choice of language in instructions should bear this in mind (tap or click, swipe or click).


Adopting a cultural ecology approach infers that where there are gaps on a map, as well as a lack of numbers of asset there may be a lack of diversity across categories of asset (Holden, 2015), which clearly depends on the categories which are initially defined. The implication that if something is not included on a map that it is not cultural can be an issue, because as a researcher I have the power to include or exclude assets and I am attributing value to it by including, or excluding, something on the map. Feminist cartographers have argued that this is a particular issue with the provision of digital maps for as the male gaze on an item will be different from a female perspective (Gibson, Brennan-Horley and Warren, 2010, Hjorth, 2013). The content of cultural mapping can be multi-faceted and incorporate many different items, depending on the remit of the mapping project. Some argue that the geography of an

area is influenced by the political and physical climate (Corner, 1999) and that it is vital to ensure that big landmarks of an area are not seen as telling the whole story (Sharp, Pollock and Paddison, 2005) as this misses the ‘vernacular’ aspects of culture which are viewed as important by local residents, or items held in high regard despite not being viewed as high culture by those who are responsible for managing a city region (Edensor and Millington, 2012).


Sociological studies by Lizardo (2006) imply that the language of culture is itself value laden, and that personal taste is shaped by the networks within which one is located; this has implications for the cultural mapping researcher in that engagement work must emphasise that culture does not just mean ‘high culture’ such as opera, but is also seeking to document and map venues where cultural activities take place such as pubs and bowling clubs (Miles and Sullivan, 2012, Stevenson, 2013). Different communities have different ideas as to what constitutes important cultural heritage and these heritage values also change over time; a term which Pendlebury refers to as ‘historicity’, where architectural styles may, like fashion, come in and out of favour and influence the policy context within which assets are designated (Waterton et al., 2015, p.457). The opinion on what constitutes a cultural asset varies; some research points to areas viewed as lacking in culture and being “uncool” whilst others are “hotspots” (Edensor and Millington, 2012, p.15) therefore it is important for a researcher to adopt an open mindset whilst defining assets in a top down manner, and seeking opinion from the community will result in a more representative picture. In the case of my research I am using GIS, cognitive mapping and digital storytelling, forming a multi-modal toolkit which allows for further discussion, not just objectivity (Cornwall and Jewkes, 1995, p.1669) (see section 2.4.4 for further discussion on the reasons for the adoption of multi-modal methods).


2.4.1.1 Stage one - Scoping

Stage 1 of the practice involved an initial investigation of the various platforms available for cultural mapping, reflecting on lessons learned from other cultural maps and reading on cultural mapping techniques, followed by the production of an outline map; the prototype allowed for testing of the chosen system for the mapping potential, inputting 70 assets and experimenting with the nature and format of a cultural map and then presenting these to the Paisley 2021 management committee. The cultural assets within this first stage covered a range of cultural categories, as defined by the Creative Scotland (CS) Opportunities site, Cultural Enterprise Office (CEO) and DCMS criteria, as summarised below:


Table 3- Categories of cultural asset


Category

DCMS

CEO

CS (Opportunities)

Advertising

X (under media)

X

X (under digital)

Animation

X (under media)

X

X

Architecture

X

X

X (under

environment)

Crafts

X

X

X

Dance

X

X

X

Design

X


X

Fashion and Textiles

X

X

X

Film

X

X

X

Games

X (under media)

X

X

Heritage

X


X (under

environment)

Literature and Language (writing,

publishing)

X

X

X

Music

X

X

X

Photography

X

X

X

Publishing

X (under media)

X

X

Radio

X (under media)

X

X

Software and Apps

X (under media)

X

X

Theatre

X

X

X

TV

X

X

X

Visual Arts

X

X

X

Sources: Adapted from DCMS, 2017, p.4, Creative Enterprise Office, 2018, Creative Scotland, 2018)


These three agencies have additional categories; DCMS list specific venue types (archives, libraries, museums and galleries) as well as referring to creative industries generally whilst Creative Scotland mention the skills of audience development, cultural policy and cultural tourism, as well as referring to Gaelic and Scots languages, equalities, education and festivals within their funding remit. DCMS expect that a City of Culture bid “may also choose to

include sport and science, but these should not be major elements of your bid and programme. However, we are not being prescriptive about what constitutes culture and it will be up to you to make the case for which activities are and are not included in your proposed cultural programme” (DCMS, 2017, p.4). Drawing on the bid criteria, alongside other cultural agencies definitions of ‘culture’ therefore informed the categories utilised in the research.


The prototype map can be viewed at http://arcg.is/0XPS81 and a screenshot of this is shown below in Figure 2:


Figure 2- Prototype digital cultural asset map



image

Source:Screenshot of prototype map, available online at http://arcg.is/0XPS81



Following the production of this prototype, events and festivals was added as a category for the digital cultural mapping to allow a greater picture of the cultural landscape to be pictured. The Paisley 2021 bid formed a festival style approach, with connected events and cultural programming, with many organisations encouraged to support the development of the bid; Scottish Government statistics now include attendance at events as part of the participation data (Scottish Government, 2017a) and there is a specific performance indicator aiming to increase cultural engagement (the percentage of adults who have wither participated in a cultural activity or visited a cultural event or place in the last 12 months”) (Scottish Government, 2018b), thus representing events is an appropriate extension of the more discipline based categories of mapping.


2.4.1.2 Stage two - In house assets

The second stage of cultural asset mapping was to move from a prototype map to one which encompassed a full range of assets and given the context within which I operated as a researcher, this was the Local Authority-held geographical information systems (GIS) data. I was given access to corporate layers of information and datasets which contained a wealth of information, although this presented challenges regarding the contemporaneousness of the data. Datapoints on the Corporate GIS are maintained and inputted by multiple users across multiple departments, although overseen by a central operations GIS team who manage the permissions and data server subscriptions. Each user has their own login and permissions, and each service has its own layers and information which results in multiple sources of information, some of which are plotted for a public facing service system (where a member of the public can locate governmental information such as their nearest school, location of waste recycling facilities or details of their parliamentary ward). This information has been carefully curated by the central GIS team in order to present a user-friendly interface which responds to the most frequently asked questions by service users, however this presents a challenge for a researcher as the information required for a cultural map is situated across many layers. For this reason, only non-sensitive data was included within the digital cultural map, for example the location of assets rather than the details of management responsibility and contact details. I have training in using GIS from my professional experience as a planner, therefore I did not encounter the same issues as some researchers, who have highlighted the complexities of GIS as a barrier to producing and presenting research outputs (Cohen, 2012b).


The interplay of the manner in which statutory environmental designations are protected in Scotland and within the UK means that data useful to cultural heritage asset mapping will be held by both natural heritage organisations (such as Scottish Natural Heritage- SNH) and built environment assets (Historic Environment Scotland- HES). Local development plans, which shape the location and nature of the land use planning system and statutory consents must set out the vision of an area, and contain explanatory maps under the Planning (etc) (Scotland) Act 2006, therefore any cultural mapping researcher embedded in a City of Culture project will be able to access information on statutory assets and land uses with ease.


Corporate GIS also contained information on local authority owned or managed or designated assets (schools, community centres, museums, parks, allotments, conservation

areas) which allowed the population of the cultural asset map with Renfrewshire wide information. Further structured searches took place from the intranet and internet sites of Paisley 2021, Renfrewshire Council, The University of the West of Scotland and Students Association of the University of the West of Scotland sites for keywords involving culture and policy document information mentioning cultural activities and stakeholders, mapping these accordingly. Corporate reports and service plans are useful sources of information for cultural asset mapping as these contain key objectives for each section of the Local Authority and graphical imagery which can be helpful in looking at the semiotics (visual representation) of the cultural resources within the area.


2.4.1.3 Stage three- Structured searches and contacts

Stage three of compiling the digital cultural asset map involved structured searches to locate assets within each category, firstly using a crowdsourcing approach through contacts within those who I was working with and related partners, and then internet searches by topic. I also undertook field visits to town centre and community sites to gather information from posters, community centres, cafes and meeting points such as shopping centres and community notice boards. On site research forms an essential part of the digital cultural asset mapping process, as community notice boards are fruitful sources of information on local groups, activities and venues; as the audience for these boards is diverse they form a rich source of cultural mapping data, identifying smaller providers who do not necessarily have the budget to advertise widely or the skills or inclination to advertise digitally.


The curriculum and provision by schools, colleges and universities around different cultural fields proved a useful field of investigation for digital cultural asset mapping. The prospectus and course provision of each local educational establishments, as well as leisure classes and community activities was included in the digital cultural asset map. This involved thorough analysis of the prospectus, courses, activities and events of each organisation, to identify the extent of activities in local campuses. Within a Renfrewshire context this involved the university provision at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) Paisley campus and its Student Union, and the West College Scotland (WCS) provision at its Paisley campus and WCS Ferguslie learning centre. Both organisations run additional courses at other campuses, but as the focus of this investigation was Renfrewshire only those delivered in Paisley were included.

When festivals are held it is a valuable opportunity to identify venues which have the potential to host activities, as pop up events may take place in spaces such as shops or vacant spaces as well as regular and well-known venues. Music festival programmes will show the location of designated venues which may include recognised spaces such as concert spaces but also smaller spaces like open mic opportunities, and open up new possibilities such as rehearsal space offered for the duration of the festival, or festival club after hours activities. Fairs and gala days also offer opportunities to identify local groups, as many community events will act as a showcase for performances or skills.


National event listing websites such as Eventbrite, Creative Scotland Opportunities, MeetUp, Evensi, Yelp, Mumsnet, Etsy Local, Gumtree and Class Finder proved a fruitful source of information on venues and groups which fell within the cultural categories. Specialist interest magazines such as GigsInScotland, The List, ArtMag, local Chamber of Commerce newsletters and venue advertisements were used, together with websites of known national groups and their local equivalent (e.g. the Boys Brigade, YMCA, CoderDojo, Embroiders Guild and The Royal Voluntary Service). Faith based websites and the individual websites of each establishment were useful for the identification of meeting spaces and multi-functional spaces for hire.


Each source of information was included as a hyperlink (where applicable) to acknowledge the source of the listing and provide a point of information for further research as required.


2.4.1.4 Stage four- consultation

The last stage for digital cultural asset mapping was to work with the University and local authority to create a press release about the research, appealing for information to assist in the development of the cultural map. This was issued in two stages, in January and February 2017, and publicised on social media (see figure 3). This style of publicity formalises the approach of consultation required by choosing to following the PAS (2014) stage two framework and stage 4 of the Arnstein (1969) ladder. As a researcher this is a useful step as it helpful for increasing the profile of the research, and legitimises the work as a piece of practice-based research where a local authority press team run a story; press releases can form a key part of a plan for knowledge exchange with a view to increasing the reach of academic work (University of Glasgow College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences, n.d.).

Figure 3- Example of cultural mapping press release shared on social media



image

Source: (Paisley 2021, 2017)


In order to judge the effectiveness of the digital cultural asset mapping, metrics on the maps have been collected to show trends in the viewing. It has been proven that StoryMaps can dramatically increase engagement in some areas of place based work, in South Ayrshire Council have utilised StoryMaps to transition from a paper based plan to a more interactive map for their Local Development Plan, with metrics revealing 4500 individual unique views in just 6 months (Feggans, 2016). I had intended that the press release would reach a wide audience, in that it is a general interest article, however, as noted by Mydland and Grahn (2012, p.582) this type of publicity can be seen as simply reinforcing the “official heritage discourse”; in this case, be seen as a Paisley 2021 story, or Council-led story, which may cause some to be disengaged, particularly in areas where it is seen that efforts for previous consultation have failed and led to distrust (McWilliams, 2004).