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Participatory Mapping: Engaging Sites, Mobilizing Knowledges

Last week, at the Imagining America conference in Seattle, WA, Sarah Elwood and I co-organized a workshop titled, "Participatory Mapping: Engaging Sites, Mobilizing Knowledges".  With the help of Jin-Kyu Jung, Ryan Burns, and Josef Eckert (and greatly informed by the work of Jentery Sayers), 22 workshop attendees collaborated in six small groups to map the university, using documenting practices like sketching, filming, and photographing.  The workshop packet is below.

Each group was given a theme which was to be expressed through their mapping process.  Themes included: collaboration, movement, culture, politics, and the social.  After a brief, 30-minute field mapping session, each group was able to upload a few items to the collaborative map (see below).  The map is by no means complete (are they ever?), but it gives you a sense of the kinds of practices afforded by visual, mobile technologies.

Session description:
Building on the organizers’ experiences with mapping projects undertaken with middle-school youth and college students, this site visit explore site-making through multi-sensory and multi-modal forms of participatory mapping.  Using the university itself as a site for engagement and a series of imaginative prompts, participants will experiment with various modes of data collection (documenting observations in words, sketch maps, photographs, video and audio clips) and presentation (Google Maps and geo-blogging mashups). Participants will experience participatory mapping as a curious and serendipitous exploration of public spaces, a creative platform for catalyzing new modes of public engagement, a critical tool facilitating the co-production of knowledge and interrogating the spatial intersectionalities of culture, politics, technology, and the social.  The workshop will be framed by reflections on the use of these critical and creative modalities in curricular and collaborative projects from a variety of field perspectives.

Photos captured during the mapping process are located here.
Videos captured during the mapping process are located here.

Map produced:

View Imagining America in a larger map


  1. Thank you all for a very engaging and informative session. It was fantastic to literally get our hands dirty in learning about mapping tools, and the hands-on support was invaluable. I'm not quite sure I understand how to really use Google mapping to explore abstract concepts like embodiment and culture in a rigorous way, but I've learned the basic tools to at least think more about how to do this. Thanks!

  2. This session was hugely helpful! As a wanna-be geographer and a community-oriented English teacher, I have been asking students to conduct a writing marathon on campus every semester (adapted from the National Writing Project's writing marathon New Orleans event From that work, I have tried several ways to "map" our experiences, but it is only after your workshop that I now know how to do so. I'm excited to use this new knowledge to capture a "participatory mapping" activity in my American Studies class that asks students to collaborate and choose 3 different sites on campus where they take notes in response to prepared questions, take a photo, mark the spot in chalk, and return to "map" their experiences. THANK you all for your genial and brilliant presentation. I so appreciate it. Linda Stewart, Kennesaw State University

  3. Google maps are very helpful for people who are new in a certain place and those looking for certain establishments in their towns or streets. Just a click away, surveying and exploring are a lot easier now. Technology has proven itself to us again!


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