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2.4.4 Multi-modal cultural engagement for cultural asset mapping

Every research approach has limitations – “where we set the boundaries of devices depends on our own questions, and our own agendas. It also tells us that whatever the stories that we tell, whatever it is that we seek to inscribe on the package, these will only ever be partial” (Law and Ruppert, 2013, p.233).


I considered that to successfully examine the research objectives which I set within section

1.2 with a greater degree of rigour and more accurately interpret, understand and explore the cultural landscape of an area using the digital storytelling, cognitive mapping and digital cultural asset mapping techniques together is beneficial as this presented a more complete interpretation of how culture is viewed in an area, and thus a greater understanding of what cultural assets mean in the study area. Table four summarises the advantage of each method in terms of the type if data gained, and thus the benefits of bringing all three methods together in this research, as well as highlighting limitations to each approach from a cultural researcher point of view.

Table 4- Interpreting the presence and meaning of cultural assets in a study area using multi- modal cultural engagement methods


Data

Digital cultural asset mapping using

ArcGIS Storymap

Cognitive mapping

Digital storytelling

Geospatial data on the location of assets

Yes- exact, including co- ordinates

Relative relationships/ locations only (if

drawn to scale)

No

Aspatial data (non- geographically

located assets)

No

Yes – labelling, and annotations

Yes- can be explored through descriptions

Quantitative data -

number of assets present in an area

Yes- quantitative

data on determined categories

Incomplete- based

on personal interest/ interaction

No

Qualitative data

Yes and no- Limited text fields can be added to datapoints, or presented in

storymaps

Yes- rich data

Yes- through listening to topics recorded

Temporal data

Timeline GIS is possible (for example display

events by date)

Yes- past memories and current experiences can be

mapped/drawn

Atemporal data, but can discuss past memories and

current experiences

Images

Limited number, in popup boxes, or

storymaps

Yes, hand drawn or collaged

Limited for sound, image-centric for

video or blogging

Video

Embed in popups

No

Can be created by participants, and incorporated into

social media

Source: Based on personal evaluation of techniques used in the research

Research by Boelens (2006) suggests that some people have difficulties in reading traditional cartesian maps, with conventional styles of cartography being too codified and complex to accurately represent a reality on the ground as they see it, whilst Kerski (2015) believes that cartographic skills are a life skill which should be taught, because not everyone has such geographical literacy. These present challenges for engaging cultural research, implying that it must not be assumed that all of the potential audience can engage well with all styles of the methods used, hence why I chose several modes to explore the research objectives at section

1.2. The audience who assess the bid documentation for Paisley 2021 would have been familiar with mapping, and able to interpret ‘official’ maps presented to support the bid, but the people who the bid is meant to represent may not necessarily have all have the skills to engage in a mapping project, even if the project is about their area and potentially of interest and impact on their lives, as highlighted in this critical piece:

Cultural mapping as it is currently utilised is clearly emblematic of a particular mode of place-based competition… the social benefits of this type of mapping, for local communities, are far less evident and must surely be the focus of future research (Lee and Gilmore, 2012 p6)

Jeannotte (2016) argues that most cultural mapping activity tends to concentrate on tangible assets, which is why the approach suggested within my methodology is beneficial to reveal hidden cultural heritage, as a multimodal approach highlights both physical assets and intangible stories, . Jeannotte further notes that her case studies examining Ontario have guidelines which do not encourage the mapping of intangible heritage, and have led to projects using social networking such as Facebook to discuss and share non physical assets instead. When investigating cultural assets and researching the strength of feeling around such assets there are many benefits to using audio, video, blogs and social media for drawing out thematic discussions and capturing opinions in this way, and potential for re-use of the articles produced in different forms of media engagement (for example oral history work has been used to develop walking trails (Trower, 2011), as a form of archival recognition for events (Crooke, 2010) and as a method of encouraging intergenerational working (PAS, 2015).


In any place there are many different layers of cultural activity taking place at the same time; some orchestrated through policy and organised events, some organic and some taking place without others noticing for example face to face social interactions and discussions about topics of note that day. All of these interactions matter, some are recordable as notable happenings whilst others exist only as fleeting memories. A cultural map can be used as a

device to record events and invite the further exploration of the character of a space, acting as a method to hold and contain information. Digital storytelling can be used as a method to record experiences through video, audio and multimedia, then embedded in a cultural map.


I agree somewhat that digital recording “need not and will not supersede the written text” (Trower, 2011, p.9), as it represents an additional resource in the practitioner-researcher toolbox which complements other sources by increasing audience reach, and adds to the understanding of a topic when used in conjunction with other approaches especially when combined with geolocative tools like asset mapping. Within the context of research these multi-modal approaches allow for text to be presented both in a written form and incorporated into multimedia and Web based resources, with digital recordings in video or sound to enhance the written word. Within a social media setting this can be particularly useful, as it helps practitioner-researchers connect with their followers and audience (Marwick and Boyd, 2011).


Lask (2011, p.59) suggests that cultural researchers and policy makers should gain a sense of the euphoric and dysphoric places within their area, and that cognitive mapping is particularly powerful in this respect as it reveals positive and negative feelings or associations around places, among different generations. Understanding the reasons behind why cultural assets are of importance is easier with multi-modal approaches, as it brings a less one-sided perspective. Cognitive mapping is not necessarily geographically accurate, but represents a highly individual perception of a place as it “exist(s) at the intersection of… two central concepts – memory and imagination” (Smith, 2015, p.225). To investigate an issue from several points of view it is possible to overlay the drawings with GIS (as undertaken in Liverpool European City of Culture (Ghoneim, 2008)), but this method has been criticised as potentially distortive of the original maps and how the authors intended to present them (Brennan-Horley and Gibson, 2009). I utilised a multi-method approach in order to effectively answer the research objectives and employ as creative a methodology as possible. There is research into the use of mapping techniques informing artistic installations, and some suggestion that maps and creative research are needed to produce innovation:

“writing visually through cartography may help scholars avoid recycling research and retracing existing.. policies” (Ulmer and Koro-Ljungberg,

2014, p.138)

The cultural mapping links to the digital storytelling activities in that it raises the profile of organisations and individuals who produce digital content. The case study utilised by Gibson

et al (2012) show that GIS and maps drawn by hand can be combined in creative projects and also have an influence on local government policy; in this example the City Council sought to study the perceptions of the city to investigate the ‘cool’ and ‘creative’ places, and used both methods together with some additional interviews to study the wider city region and inform the development of planning policy.


I concur that the “ordinary, quiet and everyday forms of cultural participation” (Gilmore, 2013, p.92) at non typical venues are worth recognising and celebrating. Digital cultural mapping can identify such venues, whilst the cognitive mapping investigates the relationship of the cultural assets to the individual, coupled with a richer picture of meaning when explained through digital storytelling. Multiple forms of content can be embedded in a map or web page, and easily shared through social media and in conducting research with communities it is useful to remember that content of different lengths will be created by participants, creating content suitable for different audience preferences (some will prefer longform content, others shorter).

“Every citizen has had long associations with some part of his city, and his image is soaked in memories and meanings” (Lynch, 1960, p.1)

This is a behaviourist perspective, and Lynch’s view is contradictory to that of the Situationists, as he argues that there is “no mystic instinct of wayfinding” (Lynch, 1960, p.2) and that our background and experiences influences the manner in which we explore an environment, thereby implying that true psychogeographical exploration is impossible as we pick up clues and create order to understand our environment. Following someone else’s

self-penned cognitive map is like a semi-structured form of derive, one can glimpse the world through their eyes but also tinged with one’s own perception. This encompasses elements of the situationist approach but also brings in an acknowledgement of the loaded nature of ones own background and influences, and allow us to experience the highlights of an area in a new way. If done in a guided tour, it also leaves us open to dialogue, where one can learn from ongoing conversations and consider new perspectives on the situations encountered. In this manner, the multi modal cultural mapping which I suggest builds up a more complete and complex exploration of the cultural nature of the assets of a city. It brings in the influence of multi-sensory cues mentioned by Lynch, but adds an element of choice for the cultural researcher to take advantage of the techniques now available to present and analyse in a digital and analogue manner; the cultural map dots invite exploration, but the inclusion of the video and audio within these makes the picture richer. The added analysis of the meaning

held within the cognitive maps developed from the approach of Gieseking (2013) via the production of wordclouds and further GIS gives an insight into the extent of the cultural world for different sections of the community


Jeannotte (2016) argues that most cultural mapping activity tends to concentrate on tangible assets, which is why the approach suggested within my methodology is beneficial as it suggests a multimodal approach which highlights both physical assets and intangible stories through digital storytelling and the integration of these within a map. Jeannotte further notes that her case studies examining Ontario have guidelines which do not encourage the mapping of intangible heritage, and have led to projects using social networking such as Facebook to discuss and share non physical assets instead.


In any place there are many different layers of cultural activity taking place at the same time; some orchestrated through policy and organised events, some organic and some taking place without others noticing for example face to face social interactions and discussions about topics of note that day. All of these interactions matter, some are recordable as notable happenings whilst others exist only as fleeting memories. A cultural map can be used as a device to record events and invite the further exploration of the character of a space, acting as a method to hold and contain information. Digital storytelling can be used as a method to record experiences through video, audio and multimedia, then embedded in a cultural map.

Neighbourhood boundaries are contested, and not easily mappable. There is often debate around the geographical extent of a neighbourhood within urban planning, and the naming of a district may change over time. The power relationships at play in the arena of placemaking mean that when new areas are created the new inhabitants who gravitate to this area may not attach the same meaning to it as those displaced by new developments, and in areas of extensive redevelopment which are subject to “urban imagineering” (Mah, 2012) and may not feature on cognitive maps due to a lack of emotional attachment and bonding which is needed to create a sense of place. In this case digital storytelling would be an excellent choice of method to record assets, as memories of past residents can be captured, as well as new occupants, juxtaposed with illustrations of the places which are featured in the recordings.


Research has highlighted the need to study the ‘Spatial ethnography’ of creative work, in that there are a range of factors which influence the location and nature of creative communities (Brennan-Horley and Gibson, 2009, p.2597). With reference to the situation in Renfrewshire,

it is acknowledged that it may not be possible to map the location of every creative professional who is based in the area as some people may sell work online without the need for a physical base. In addition, some people who consider themselves to be creative may not engage with the formal networks in place such as the Creative Renfrewshire Network, and may not have a permanent creative base or studio space instead engaging in casual activity to suit their own preferences as and when they are able to, or as a secondary source of employment, working from home rather than a dedicated collaborative workspace. Digital storytelling and storymaps can enhance the cultural mapping to help tell the whole story in this respect (see chapter five).


Cognitive mapping exercises with communities can be seen to be a method of looking at the sociological architecture of a study area (Holanda, 2010), as this reveals both key buildings and spaces and stories and inter-relationships about these as seen from a first person point of view. The hard and soft cultural assets revealed in the cultural mapping work intermingle with the ‘real life’ situation on the ground and are depicted by workshop participants. In this way digital storytelling with storymaps and cognitive mapping exercises intersect and are a rich form of data to inform the hand drawn maps as they deal with tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The digital storytelling work directly complements and enhances the work carried out in section two, and creates content which can be compared with the cognitive mapping output and incorporated into digital maps. I wish to avoid making assumptions about how areas are used and what the culturally significant spaces and places are, therefore this exercise, when combined with the other exercises, will reveal a greater picture of the area. The terminology “making lines of lives” used by Ross et al (2009, p.608) is particularly applicable to the approach proposed in the project; the methods used join together the knowledge gained in other areas of the project and each technique complements the other, giving an insight into culture and assets of importance in the research area.


Public engagement exercises may not produce entirely accurate information; interpreting mapping as a factual piece of data can be problematic, those who contribute to the process may not be entirely objective in their judgement of where assets are located, may misplace information or even deliberately omit or manipulate information where they do not wish to highlight the presence of a group which they are not engaged with, even though they may know of its existence. The map relies on secondary information to populate the map, which may not be the most up to date. The nature of creative and cultural industries means that there are a diverse range of opportunities and models of working and production, presenting a

challenge to cultural mapping as some forms of activity are hidden. For the digital cultural asset map to be at its most representative, it requires those operating within the cultural fields to self-identify as a cultural practitioner and also engage with the mapping process by showcasing their location or work as part of the map, which can be problematic as some people do not engage with an arts network or consider themselves ‘cultural’ (Lizardo, 2006). To try to address these issues within the context of my study area I envisaged that the consultation exercise on the digital cultural asset map would reveal these assets, but in practice this was not the case. This is an important lesson on the effectiveness of consultation, and further highlights the importance of using multiple sources and methods to try and form a complete picture of culture and suggests that more research is needed to reveal this type of hidden cultural asset.


Interpreting and analysing the results of the cultural mapping exercise provides valuable insights into cultural hotspots and areas where there are less activities. It should be remembered that the inclusion of an item in the mapping by the researcher does not imply that this item has more value than an item which is not included. Some aspects of the culture of a place cannot be physically mapped, merely acknowledged in the overall narrative of a place. Wagstaff (2015) notes that friendliness of residents can be seen to be part of the character of a place (Waterton et al., 2015, p.201). I used other creative methods to capitalise on this; Paisley residents are known as ‘buddies’ and this name has been used by the recent public art trail using ‘Buddy the Lion’ from Paisley museum as a mascot (Paisley First, 2016). In carrying out the digital storytelling and cognitive mapping activities, I used my social skills as a practitioner-researcher to engage with the friendliness of the participants, who were happy to share their stories with me; I measured this through their participation, as those who did not want to participate did not need to (as discussed below in section 2.5 on ethics). This is particularly relevant within the context of research skills, as something encouraged and recognised by Vitae (Vitae, 2011, p.28) within the “Influence and leadership” sphere active listening skills are needed, and in a practitioner sphere such skills are used to promote dialogue within a consultation context:

“We also recognise that the quality of the conversations which are held is fundamentally important, and that procedures will need to be supported by training and improved practice to make sure that people are listened to

properly” (Scottish Government, 2017b, p.23)

A researcher should thus be flexible and confident to allow participants with different communication preferences and abilities to feel comfortable expressing themselves,

especially where literacy or language skills are a challenge. Structure is needed to guide a cultural research workshop, but approaching a creative task with an open mind and a recognition of the potential differences in learning styles will help when working with community groups, particularly if the research is being carried out as part of a training programme or designed to guide community management (Peel, 2005).


 

2.5 Ethical considerations of practice-based research2.6 Conclusions