Edinburgh Culture & Communities Mapping Project, with Morgan Currie

From March to July 2019, the ‘Edinburgh Culture and Communities Mapping Project,’ held seven public mapping events that invited people from the cultural sector to offer their perspective on the city’s cultural infrastructure – to name spaces and vital community hubs they value. The result is an interactive map of cultural spaces that artists, art institutions, and policy makers may use to explore Edinburgh’s cultural geography and, it’s hoped, steer the city in a more inclusive manner. To better understand the participatory processes that led to the map, I draw on literature from critical cartography, cultural geography, and cultural mapping. I identify three dialectics that are inherent in the cultural mapping process: formatting the project to collect quantitative or qualitative data, which is usually correlated with tangible or intangible data; understanding the map as a means to policy outcomes rather than as part of an ongoing, interpretive process; and attending to the representational versus performative role of the maps produced. Most often cultural mapping projects fall along a continuum between these dialectical oppositions – they will engage more or less with one than another, and both may inhere in a single mapping effort, as is the case with the project presented here. I lay out how the project navigated – and continues to negotiate – these three dialectics and what they might reflect about cultural mapping more broadly.

Morgan Currie is a lecturer in data and society in science, technology and innovation studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her research and teaching interests focus on open and administrative data, activists’ data practices, civil society and democracy, social justice and the city, participatory mapping, and libraries of things. Currie is principle investigator of The Culture & Communities Mapping Project and co-lead the Digital Social Science Research Cluster at Centre for Data, Culture & Society. Currie earned a Ph.D. in information studies from University of California, Los Angeles, in 2017.