A Collaborative Mobile Cultural Mapping Workshop & Exhibition at ISEA 2015

Today I attend A Collaborative Mobile Cultural Mapping Workshop & Exhibition at ISEA 2015

The workshop started with the participants introducing themselves and briefly talked about their own research interests. Next, Dr. Martha Ladly took over to give a quick overview of what she had planned for the workshop and to tell the story and motivations behind this workshop. Her interests in locative media and mobile technologies began 2003 with a project called Murmur. Developed in varies places in Toronto, Murmur allowed people to share personal stories connected to specific physical places through a phone number. With the focus on different aspects of space and place in every day, many other projects followed Murmur through the rapid development of mobile technologies: mobile devices for people with memory loss (2006); Park Walk Toronto (2006; 2014), La Recoleta, Argentina (2013), and Fissile, Italy (2014); visualizing the impact of mobile journalism (2011, during the Arab Spring); and Elders and Memory (2013).

For this workshop, Dr. Martha Ladly planned a day-long geolocative narrative, walking, and mapping activity, which was held in the Historic Woodward’s district of downtown Vancouver. The group was then taken for a walking tour guided by David Eddy, CEO of Skwachàys Lodge and Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery, and Vancouver Native Housing Society. David Eddy introduces us to the Woodwards historic area and the Lower East Side / Gastown neighbourhood, and told many stories about the social function of housing and lodges for natives and lower-income people in Vancouver. He also walked the group through alleys and galleries in the area to show public art on walls and side of buildings.

After the walking tour, Dr. Martha Ladly invited the group to form teams of four. Each team had to tell a story about the Historic Woodward’s district using locational media. Mapping the space and place must be a fundamental part of this story, so we had to use MapMyWalk app in our mobile phones to track our routes as we collect images, sound, videos, and any other type of information we want to share.

During lunch at Deacon’s Corner, my team decided to explore a community garden in the surrounding area. Following a quick search on the web, we agreed to visit the Strathcona Community Garden, the first established in Vancouver. It was a bit off the Woodward’s district, but we thought that we could learn more about the community if we walk through it. After a well served pulled pork sandwich, we started our stroll through Gore Street. We passed by many Chinese markets where we captured images from the diversity of ingredients used in Asian cuisine (e.g., vegetables, fruits, dried fungus, fishes, and goose feet [!]), and some contrasting urban messages (e.g., “money food” written in a dumpers, and a cactus plant in a pot that reads “coffee”).

We made our way to Strathcona Community Garden through Prior Street. This community garden is a non-profit charitable society with a Board of Directors made up of gardeners from both Strathcona and Cottonwood Community Gardens. This massive area (3.34 acres) began to be transformed in garden in 1985 and today provides space for area residents  to grow their own organic food, herbs, and flowers, offers rare inner-city habitat space for wildlife, educates  gardeners and the community on organic food techniques, composting and other urban ecological skills, and maintains an urban oasis for all residents and visitors to enjoy.

The garden has approximately 200 plots for residents to grow organic food. Several raised beds are available for those with physical /mobility limitations. Among vegetables (lettuce, kale), fruits (apple, grapes), herbs (parsley, basil), and many different flowers (orchids, daises), we also found displaced objects, liked a piano, that was reappropriated as a plot for plants and flowers.

Lastly, we found a beehive. However, unlike we first thought, the beehive is not used for honey production. Rather, the community garden uses the bees for pollination and to teach children about this important process in the circle of life and its relations to the modern urban life. This made us think that we made our walk backward: bee’s pollination makes the garden thrives; garden products are then put for sale, like those we saw at the Chinese market; and finally, the food arrives in our kitchen or restaurants, where we started this experience.

When, a little late on the schedule, we got back at SFU, the last part of the workshop was about to start. All groups should share their experiences in a show and tell session. We should use Google Earth to display the route we took and pinpoint the material we have collected. Unfortunately, technology does fail sometimes and we could not load the images into the map. The experiences between the other teams were somewhat different. While our team relied mostly on images and the recollection of our path, other also recorded audio and video, and planed different routes among team participants.

At the very end, I had the opportunity to briefly talk with Dr. Martha Ladly and show the prototype I developed in one of my Ph.D. classes: Human Spatial Movement Visualization. After I explained how it works and what sort of questions I was interested, she demonstrated an interest in the prototype and asked me to share the link with her.


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