Mapping the City - Reflections on urban mapping methodologies from GPS to Community Dialogue

Nold, Christian; Jensen, Ole B. and Harder, Henrik (2008). Mapping the City - Reflections on urban mapping methodologies from GPS to Community Dialogue. Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark.

URL: https://vbn.aau.dk/en/publications/mapping-the-cit...

Abstract

Representing the city is an issue not easily solved. In the arts, the literature and the many different branches of science engaging with the city (from architecture to engineering and urban studies) the question of how best to re-present the city is crucial. At times this is due to a wish to order the city, to impose on it certain element of power. At other times the aim is to make the city's 'condition' an issue of dialogue between different groups of inhabitants. And yet at other times it simply involves invoking certain feelings amongst ones fellow urban consociates as in the case of great urban novels. Unlike in the introduction quote from Jonathan Raban's novel Soft City the representations of cities and sites in contemporary planning and urban design are marked by a number of 'hard' technologies that offers new opportunities to the understanding of cities. However, at the end of the day we would argue that both the 'soft city' and the 'hard city' need bridging in order to enhance our basic understanding of the contemporary urban situation. A way of exploring this new territory and opening up the 'soft' and 'hard' representations of the city is to look into the application of GPS technology coupled with 'classic' notions of deliberative dialogue and citizens interaction. In this paper we shall explore two very different ways of approaching representation of place by means of applying GPS technologies. In the first case we present the work of Christian Nold which is focused on developing new participatory models for communal representation that combine innovative art, design and ethnographical methodologies. The projects are initiated in collaboration with a broad range of local institutions such as a community groups, arts organisations, universities and local government in cases where they have identified a particular context where there are social, cultural or political tensions and they feel they do not know how to mediate or deal with these issues. The second case is about GPS mapping of the citizen's use of public parks in Aalborg, Denmark. In collaboration between Aalborg University and the Municipality of Aalborg a GPS based park survey was carried out based on the municipality of Aalborg's landscape division general interest in knowing more about actual park user's use of the parks and the park user's preferences in relations to specific areas in the parks. The paper is structured in five sections. After the introduction we present a short theoretically informed discussion of the key issue of representing place. In section three we present the first case of participatory communal representation using GPS technology. In section four we move to the second case also about representing place by means of GPS technology but with a very different outset and research design. The paper end with section five in which we offer a short reflection and some concluding remarks.

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