Geographic information technologies: cultural mapping and the prospects of colliding epistemologies.

TitleGeographic information technologies: cultural mapping and the prospects of colliding epistemologies.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsGibson C, Brennan-Horley C, Warren A
Journal TitleCultural Trends
Keywordscreative city research, cultural mapping, cultural planning., Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

This article discusses potential applications of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in cultural research – amidst concern that confusion surrounds what a GIS is and how it might be used. We discuss the adoption of GIS in our own cultural research projects, motivated by empirical shortcomings with existing creative industries and cultural planning research methods, coupled with a desire to more fully explore the geography of cultural life within cities. GIS are a range of technologies (GPS, web-mapping, proprietary software systems) that seek to accumulate geographical information for analysis within computer database systems. In our projects, GIS enabled spatially-sensitive questions about creative activity, affective links to city environments and cultural vitality (asked in interviews and focus groups) to be linked to central map databases. ‘Collisions of epistemologies’ (Brown and Knopp 2008) were made possible by GIS, dissolving boundaries between qualitative and quantitative methods, and connecting our philosophical commitment to everyday, vernacular forms of culture to matters of cultural planning. Results showed a refreshing amount of creative activity occurring beyond visible ‘hubs’, in suburbs and the vernacular spaces of everyday life. Moreover, cultural life – and creative activities more specifically – was layered, localised and multifaceted within cities, in ways which preclude singular generalisations. GIS and maps – with their capacities to capture complexity and layered phenomena – helped communicate such findings in digestible formats, to a range of community and government audiences.