Green Tease Reflections: Community Mapping for Environmental Empowerment

29th September 2020

Layered images of maps and leaves. Text reads: Community Mapping for Environmental Empowerment: Tools, tips, and tricks.

22nd September 2020: This Green Tease event focused on the roles that mapping can have in empowering communities to act on climate change and other environmental issues. The event featured talks from Hannah Clinch (GreenMap) and Danny McKendry (Architecture and Design Scotland) as well as discussion time.

Attendees of the event included representatives from community groups, environmentally engaged artists and sustainability practitioners, all with a shared interest in making use of mapping to further environmental and social aims.

Presentations

Hannah Clinch’s presentation started with some general issues in mapping:

  • How we present maps affects our understanding: where the centre is, what is included, what is excluded
  • Maps can be a tool of power or control: whoever makes them determines the content, there may be unequal access to the information contained in them
  • Participatory mapping can be a means of reclaiming control or presenting a new way of understanding a place

She then went on to discuss the GreenMap system, an online platform that allows communities to create and share maps of their local area for various purposes, using a wide range of icons. She offered a few examples of how the system had been used, including  a ‘Dear Green Place’ map that collected together information on re-use shops in Glasgow following extensive research by residents.

Hannah recorded her presentation, which is now available to watch here:

Hannah’s presentation was followed by some workshop time explaining how to make use of the open GreenMap system for mapping projects.

Danny McKendry’s presentation focused on a project mapping Edinburgh’s shoreline and the broader issues that this project raised about mapping. The project was organised in connection to the ‘Granton Vision’ for a major new waterfront development. Mapping provided an inviting and unintimidating medium for residents to share their feelings about the local area and engage with plans for its development. Methods included:

  • Asking people to pin labels to a map, showing which buildings and places mattered to them and why
  • Getting people to write on cards the three things that make their area special to them
  • Having people show the ways they usually use to travel around the area, showing the most frequently used routes and the links between places

Danny suggested that in order to build an understanding of a place, good mapping should address three key areas in particular:

  • Mapping the things that people really care about, not just what you expect them to care about
  • Showing a ‘day in the life of local personas’ to gain an understanding of how people move around and inhabit the place
  • Showing a ‘year in the life of the place’ to gain an understanding of how it changes through the seasons

Danny demonstrated this with the example of how a resident’s quality of life had been worsened by the building of a state-of-the-art new school to replace the old one. There was no problem with the building itself, but they were now forced to change from a simple commute to a complex and stressful one; something that had not been foreseen by planners.

You can see the slides from Daniel McKendry’s presentation here

Discussion

These presentations were followed by discussions in small groups, responding to the points raised by the presenters and seeing how they connected to the individual aims of attendees. Some of the main points raised included:

  • Less physical forms of mapping focusing on relationships or power can also be useful for developing understanding and presenting information.
  • The process of mapping is as important as the result, it provides an opportunity for people to interact and share.
  • The ownership and stewardship of maps is important: where they are housed, either online or physically, will affect who is most likely to access and make use of them.
  • During coronavirus online mapping could provide a means of retaining a connection with your local area, providing a means of sharing information with others.
  • Conversely, online mapping can allow us to be ‘digitally close’ to people in parts of the world that are physically distant from us, allowing the development of understanding and empathy.
  • Maps make involvement in decisions accessible to more people through clarity of presentation. One participant talked about how using mapping had allowed young children she worked with to have a voice in the development of their school.
  • Digital and physical mapping processes can be combined. We don’t need to choose one or the other.

 


About Green Tease

grey oblique lines growing darker, then a green line with an arrow pointing right and overlaid text reading 'culture SHIFT'This event is taking place as part of the Green Tease events series and network, a project organised by Creative Carbon Scotland, bringing together people from arts and environmental backgrounds to discuss, share expertise, and collaborate. Green Tease forms part of our culture/SHIFT programme. 

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