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2.4.2 Cognitive mapping

Cognitive mapping involves using pen and paper to draw out a representation of how you see and area or journey. The technique has its roots in town planning and urban design, where it was used by Lynch (1960) to analyse how a city was composed of familiar paths, edges, nodes, districts and landmarks. Bandarin (2014) argues that cultural mapping has its roots in mental mapping (also known as cognitive mapping) and I consider that it is important to acknowledge the development of digital tools and pay homage to the long established

creative analogue methods to incorporate both methods as a way of investigating the research questions in section 1.2. Studies show that sketchmaps can provide a very detailed illustration of how particular communities view their area, and suggest that they may be a useful tool to open up dialogue among diverse populations and between teachers and students or community leaders (Sulsters, 2005, Gillespie, 2010).


Cognitive maps are more akin to the vernacular maps which precede accurately measured maps and GIS, as “Locations are depicted as... understood... with respect to basic geography and natural and man- made landmarks, rather than striving for precision” (Baker, 2012, p.89). They include elements of personalisation which reveal the sociological geography of their author, a discipline which is relatively recently established as a form of analysis and understanding places as it includes the manner in which a place affects a person emotionally, as well as the physical location of buildings (Holanda, 2010). Various studies have revealed that by mapping space It does not alter experiences of it, but that women and men may experience a place in a different way and feel inclined to share information to a different degree (Hjorth, 2013). The studies of Gieseking (2013) analysed the tradition of cognitive mapping from its first use in behavioural psychology, through urban design and geography and towards modern applications in his own studies in a bid to address his view that that “the method’s development has been too uneven and its analytics ad hoc and piecemeal”. The method proposed by his work advocated a thirty five element analysis of sketch maps which considered four outline factors in the sketches, namely the “mechanics of method… drawing element… narratives of place and personalization” (Gieseking, 2013, pp.717–718). In earlier academic studies, Cori-Wallen (2006) links cognitive mapping to psychogeographic exploration techniques, which shows its application for creative exploration and documentation of environmental perceptions.


The personal nature of cognitive mapping may mean that misinterpretation of information contained within the cognitive maps is possible, as without extensive annotation or further interviews one cannot know the exact meaning of each asset to each person. It can also be difficult to decipher handwriting and understand drawings, legibility is an issue as creativity and expression is the aim of the task rather than neatness. The researcher must emphasise that artistic skill is not a prerequisite for completing a cognitive map, it is common for adults to feel they cannot draw (Gregory, 2007). Symbols used in cognitive maps are codified and unique to each individual; maps can be pieces of art in their own right, as described by Watson (2009) in her work examining the overlapping within the traditions of cartography

and visual art. Watson notes that there is a danger of mono-culturalism, whereby the dominant ideology ignores the less prominent voices and perpetuates the existing centres of production which overlook the more marginalised work, such as Aboriginal pieces. This ties back to the work of Arnstein (1969) and Geddes (1949) and the ethos of inclusive participation in civic activities; those with the loudest voice may be able to participate more, yet this should not be the case when one is aiming for inclusivity in engagement and equal opportunities to participate in activities affecting them.


Maps can be created by persons of any age or background, which is a useful tool for creative engagement with place and narrative, recognised as such by the Scottish Government (2010), an example of which is using a cognitive map to answer a specific question, for example analysing where the “cool and creative places” are (Gibson et al., 2012, p.339). Cognitive mapping can definitely contribute to the understanding of cultural assets within an area and how people see their area, (Gillespie, 2010) and the time taken to create a map can be very short, which facilitates the use of the method as part of events with limited duration, and pop up or on street events (Gibson, Brennan-Horley and Warren, 2010). Maps can be created collaboratively, with several people working together on one large map to create a collective vision of an area or prompt discussion on assets included in the map and the personal meaning behind them. Example maps may provide a spark for discussion, and inspiration into different styles, reassuring the participants that the maps can be created in many different ways. There is no one ‘correct’ style of cognitive mapping, as each person’s interpretation of an area will be different, and everyone interprets an area in a different way.


The value which a community places on an asset is not necessarily those as that within its listing; non-specialists may view the architectural importance of a building as simply wallpaper, in that they walk past it daily but do not actually go in, or study it in detail. They may miss the asset if it was no longer there, and notice if it was to go into a state of sudden deterioration as it is part of their own cognitive map of their area, but may not know the finer details of why it is historically or architecturally important, merely that it is ‘old’. This does not mean that this asset is less important to them than another landmark which is not afforded listed building status, it has a different level of significance. Traditional buildings make up 6 million buildings in the UK (National Heritage Training Group, 2008) and may be more culturally significant for some people as in cultural terms they are the dominant architectural style for many townscapes, acting almost as wallpaper (this concept is explored in more detail in chapter 5, within section 5.3.).


There are issues with to copycat regeneration; the blanket replication of a development which was successful in one area to another is unlikely to create the distinctive and culturally vibrant settlement which is desired (Evans, 2005) and may actually perpetuate the implementation of “placelessness” (Arefi, 1999, p.183) where the area becomes indistinguishable from others and has a non-descript landscape, pockled with poorly thought out hard landscaping and identikit shops, leaving them lacking in any trait which could be valued as individual or unique, and worth celebrating. External perceptions of an area may not match those of residents; the use of landmark buildings to help define the cultural landscape of a place has been criticised by many, particularly in the case of high profile buildings citing the case of the Guggenheim in Bilbao (Graham, 2002, Hospers, 2010, Keresnyei, 2011, Sainz, 2012, Grodach, 2013, Kloosterman, 2013). The draw of a landmark building is clear, but there is more to an area than this one feature, it does not define the entire raison d’etre of a city or region. The reproduction of the building on postcards, social media and marketing materials perpetuates the new image of the city-region, and cognitive mapping can be a useful visual tool to assess how people view an area and whether they include these landmarks (The Scottish Government, 2010, p.32).


As introduced in section 1.2, assets can mean different things to different people, and the dominant ideology will influence the sanctioning of assets through the adoption of the authorised heritage discourse (Smith, 2011). A ‘category A’ listed building is of international importance, by virtue of its statutory recognition by a government body as having special architectural or historic significance, and the listing affects the interior and exterior of that building. In addition, that same building may have archaeological significance and be scheduled under the ancient monuments regulatory system, broadly covering any works within the area underneath the property and any finds within the grounds. Development, demolition or excavation within the boundary of this asset may require consents under the listed building, scheduled monument and conservation area legislation, and also building warrants and planning permission depending on the nature of the proposals. These statutory consents do not take into account the inherent community value of an asset; personal opinions on the importance of an asset are not a material concern in an official application (which may be a cause of much concern for some). The extent to which control is exercised over a property within a historic area may vary depending on the nature of the guidance in place within that Local Authority, which are influenced by the heritage values defined by that body. It is easy to find information on designated assets, but more work is required to

uncover the hidden assets, as suggested by the hidden heritage typology (table 1, section 1.1.4).


2.4.2.1 Method: Application of cognitive mapping in the research

In operationalising the approach to cognitive mapping within this study, it was important to explain the context within which the maps were to be used, allowing participants to be able to withdraw at any time. Each individual participant produced their own map which was unique to them, however the commonalities and differences seen between each revealed important lessons in how the cultural landscape is formed and that which defines the ‘cultural assets’ of that place; chapter four explains this in more detail. Landmarks in the cognitive mapping and neighbourhood areas can be identified in the practice-based portfolio, and are discussed in chapter 4.


In order to carry out cognitive mapping work with the community groups described in section

2.3.2 I explained what the research workshop was about using wording from my participant information sheet, where I stated “drawing a map or picture about your view on what is important to you in Paisley; where you enjoy spending time, what you think is important to the culture of Paisley, which areas you like and what you think could be better. All materials are provided, like paper, pens and pencils and you do not have to think you are artistic or creative, everyone is welcome to make a map!”. This explained the context and the aims and gave participants an opportunity to consider whether they wished to make a map. Cognitive mapping is a less useful tool for working with those who have limited pen skills, or feel unable to engage with written activities, as unless there is a scribe who can accurately reproduce the wishes of the person on paper the maps would not compare to those produced by others in that group nor reflect the true picture of that area for such persons. Consideration to a group facilitator for each smaller group might be beneficial, as the researcher can only be with one group at a time. This may present problems where a facilitator is seen as the scribe and this requires skill on the behalf of the facilitator to ensure that all participants are heard, and that all of the suggestions are included. In my research some group members worked in twos or threes and appointed one member as a scribe, which works well where there are smaller friendship groups.


Gieseking’s (2013) methods (described above) provide a useful approach to the analysis of cognitive maps. I chose to develop this process by listing all of the assets included in each map produced by the selected groups, anonymised for each participant, which allowed me to

analyse both the content created by each community group and summarise the results as a whole, adopting a three-stage process:


Stage 1 - conduct cognitive exercises with each group

Stage 2 - take participant’s map, list the assets mentioned in an Excel spreadsheet, then count each asset (see portfolio)

Stage 3 - summarise trends for each community group in table and word cloud format


The word cloud is a development of the work, not suggested by Gieseking, and is an original contribution to knowledge and methods in this sense.


In applying sketch mapping principles to Paisley, one can examine the perspective of different participants of the cultural resources most precious to them and identify commonalities and differences in what is important to different groups about the town, which is discussed in more detail in chapter four.