Chapter 8: Locative Media in the City: Drawing Maps and Telling Stories

by Didem Ozkul and David Gauntlett


Chapter Abstract:

This chapter explores how users of locative media experience urban spaces through “cognitive maps” that they create. Rather than asking them to consider this in relation to predefined geographical maps, we wondered what it would be like if participants were asked to create their own maps, from scratch, of the city that they live in, and share their stories accordingly. As a mental process, cognitive maps consist of collecting, organising, storing, recalling and manipulating spatial information. With the help of those maps, our “knowing is translated into telling” – as Hayden White has put it – where experiences of places as well as memories are narrated. Within this process of representation and creating a self-narrative of one’s everyday life through location information, a tool commonly used for identifying routes, the map, comes to be used as an interface, where users can create their own geo-tagged stories of their lives. Here, cognitive mapping is also defined as a storytelling platform, focusing on several examples of participant maps of London. Used in this way, the method offers a fresh extension of creative visual methods, in which people are invited to spend time applying their playful or creative attention to the act of making something, and then reflecting on it. The process offers insights into the lived experience of mediated life in a city that would otherwise be difficult to access.


Hands-On Exploration:

Think about a city that you live in, or are familiar with. What is the overall image of it when you think about frequently visited places? Do you have special places in that city which add to your feelings about it?

On a piece of paper, draw a quick map of your city. This map doesn’t have to be geographically correct or accurate, just a rough sketch is fine. After you have drawn for 2 minutes, explain and discuss your map in groups of four or five people. Consider questions such as ‘Why do you think you have drawn this place? Is there a special or important reason for that?’.

Then raise questions concerning how you share your memories of those places with your social circle, and whether or not you use a mobile communication technology for that purpose. After this discussion (10 minutes), now circle or shade the areas on your map where you remember that you have used any type of mobile communication device. When you have finished, explain what these devices are, how you use them, and what difference you think these devices make in your everyday life.