Mapping Cultures – let us teach you material participation!

Wouldn’t you like to interact with your environment and your local stakeholders on a deeper level? This is exactly what is possible by applying the techniques of cultural mapping and material participation.

With cultural mapping, we take a particular site, area or issue, and explore it with local stakeholders. An example of this is the relation of citizens and passers-by to a space in Copenhagen, that we explored in 2019. By taking locals for a walk and going as close as possible to the materialities of the place, we learned that there was really very little direct relation to the way the area had been designed. The safe choices made 15 years ago were so safe that the most common phrase used by people was “this is just a lawn”, or “it’s only grass”. By designing experiences for them that brought them closer to the life that grows in the area, we were able to bring out deeper issues of citizenship and belonging. The outcome was a series of suggestions for a local installation highlighting urban nature, that eventually became the first step of the Dome of Life project.

Material participation is the name used for when you enter into broader dialogue with stakeholders using materiality as the way to uncover relations and interests. Instead of asking for opinions, you let people carry out actions, using tools, places, even small buildings, rather than type forms or similar “free” expressions. This is commonly used in market research and technological development – but it is just as valuable as a tool for developing community engagement or organizational change.

And since we live in an age of deep ecological challenges, the material aspect holds a very important place in our relations to each other, to the places we live, and to our sense of being taken seriously.

Drop us a line if you are curious as to how we might help you develop that much deeper relationship with your residents, future homebuilders, or stakeholders in your neighbourhood!

Engaging with residents in Copenhagen around Lichens, as a way to explore their relations to the place they inhabit