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4.2.4 The geography of personal cultural worlds

In analysing the number of assets mentioned in the cognitive maps it is interesting to note the geographical extent of the spread of assets. Some maps have a very low number of assets and a concentrated geographical area, emphasising the point that “one’s life-world is focused upon the every- day life and meanings that are created by the repetition of activity with that material environment” (Hyler, 2013, p.372). If a participant shows very few assets on their cognitive map it can imply a very small life-world, where particular assets are of key importance. This is of particular relevance for studying the demographics of a cultural asset,

those with limited geographical mobility may place a high level of importance on their most used assets, and rely on assets which they can access easily, rather than venturing further afield. It can also begin to reflect the nature of the discussion on cultural networks where an individual’s background and “network ties” (Lizardo, 2006, p.792) input into modelling the size of interactions which take place, although I disagree with the implication that some forms of culture are less valuable or weaker, and cognitive mapping would not be an appropriate manner to discover this (Lizardo uses complex statistical analysis and a form of taste indicators, which reinforces an elitist labelling approach of high and low culture). The aim of my cognitive mapping work was not to pass judgement on the relative “worth” of the assets identified, it was to research the matters of note to the participants. This aligns with the discussions on work, leisure and transmission” (Miles and Sullivan, 2012, p.23) where many factors influence the diversity of activities undertaken (and thus the likely level of assets which are included on a cognitive map), as the nature of ones leisure time patterns have an impact.

Cultural policy must take into account that service users may have a self-imposed boundary for their activities, and that catchment areas may be defined by accessibility by chosen modes of transport, highlighted in my research through maps where train stations, former tram routes and main roads were of note and similarly discussed within the work of Delrieu and Gibson (2017a) on geographical constraints.

Not all of the potential participants lived in the study area, therefore it was necessary to reassure them that their contribution was just as valuable as that of the residents for the mapping exercise. Members of the group which are newer to the area, or only visiting, can find it more difficult to produce a cognitive map of a specific place as they do not have a high level of knowledge about the location and for this reason it is important to establish the nature of the group profile when carrying out mapping. Running mapping activities in conjunction with other activities which compete for attention can result in lower participation rates, yet conversely programming in a cognitive mapping activity as part of a regular programme can be helpful, as participants are focused on that task for the session, or be expecting an activity to take place at that time therefore are likely to attend as part of their own chosen leisure time activities. I was fortunate that I was able to work with the group facilitators prior to the sessions, so I was aware of the group profiles, but I had not worked with the participants themselves before, which resulted in needing time to build rapport.

The results from my research strongly contradict the findings of a study carried out in Liverpool where the researcher described her participants knowledge of real geography as “feeble” (Lask, 2011, p.53); the maps produced show a strong knowledge of the geographical interrelationship of assets and landmarks to one another, even when carried out in mind map form rather than drawn map. Each map had a slightly different focus, unique to each participant but also displayed many common aspects such as landmark buildings, or organisations which are of interest to that participant. Whilst not all orientated on a compass, it is possible to broadly place items in the areas which they occupy on the ground, as shown in figure 6. The full original maps can be viewed online as part of the portfolio.


4.3 Digital Storytelling