Mapping Toolkit

This week I tested a toolkit that is designed to map out the environment of local communities. The toolkit consist out of archetypal shaped buildings, vehicles and characters. The shapes air painted black, colouring them with crayons can alter the appearance. This enables local residents to add layers of information to the map. The idea is that toolkit can be used to make a scale model of a local environment, providing a map to discus possibilities within their area.

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Mapping experiment

As part of my (Ben Hagenaars) research project  Cultivating Communities, I organised a workshop at the NME seminar (Natuur en Milieu educatie dag) in Brussels last week. 25 stakeholders within the field of environment and education participated in the workshop. The aim was to visualise a fictional map of a network between different schools. I used the MAP-it toolkit – developed by social spaces – which normally uses sticker icons to visualise a map. However, I made some alterations since I wanted to add some extra features like building blocks to make the map more tangible. This idea originates from a presentation I took part in during the Sustainable Summer School organised by REcentre last summer. For this presentation we didn’t want to use PowerPoint to visuals our concept – a food system for the city of Maastricht – but we built a miniature city out of materials we could scavenge in the surrounding area. This made it really easy to talk about the food systems with local famers, citizens and other stakeholders. It enabled us to work out a scenario of our concept, but more importantly it enabled other people to ad ideas of their own to the existing map. A fragment of the presentation can be found in this video by REcentre (starting from minute 7:41).

For last week’s workshop, I’ve tried to merge the MAP-it toolkit with some tangible elements. The participants where divided into three groups, each group was accompanied by a moderator who used scenario cards to guide the session. Structural elements like building blocks, link materials like ropes, and pens to add extra information could be used to build up the map.

The participants had to map a fictional network of school ‘laboratories’, which made the workshop a bit more challenging. The laboratories could be defined as spaces where school communities can experiment and come up with solutions to environmental issues. At the start of the workshop, ideas of networked school ‘laboratories’ emerged: schools that experiment with renewable energy, a network that uses bike messengers to transport materials, self-sufficient water laboratories, …

Halfway through the workshop, the groups switched to another map. After a short presentation of the map, the new group could ad remarks, brake down structures and build new structures. This generated interesting discussions about the importance of spaces where people could gather and share ideas. The spaces weren’t necessary physical structures as they could also be digital or even hybrid structures.