I love a good map, especially when the map tells me something that I didn’t know before. This is why we have for some time incorporated spatial methods in teaching communications research at Greenwich. With the help of students on the BA Media & Communications, I’ve put together a slide deck explaining how we have used communication asset mapping as a method for investigating the neighbourhood around the campus.
Slides: Communication Asset Mapping in Practice
One of the fundamental insights of media theory is that media shape space (the light bulb is the classic example of this, as Marshall McLuhan argues). More specifically, communications scholars are interested in questions of how people experience and interact in space – neighbourhoods, urban areas, or even individual streets. This is where digital technologies come in. Mapmaking has become a lot more accessible to non-experts in cartography in recent years. Tools like Google Maps, Mapbox and CartoDB make it possible to add layers of data on to maps of the world, down to a very fine level of detail. We can document and visualise our environment (and share those visualisations) using cheap or free tools online.
So, this is why our students can sometimes be found walking around the public spaces of Greenwich, taking notes and pictures. The inspiration for this comes from the MetaConnects group at the Annenberg School for Communication (University of Southern California) whose work aims to link research and practice through the study of communities, diversity and communication technologies. Importantly, they have created a very useful research toolkit, shared online. We’ve borrowed some of their concepts and methods, and put them to use on the streets of Greenwich.
Here’s a link to the map we made, and here are some slides documenting the process. Enjoy!