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Augmenting People’s Geographies of Seattle: Digital platforms as participatory methods

Christian Anderson
University of Washington Bothell

Abraham Avnisan
Kent State University

Amir Sheikh
University of Washington Bothell

This paper jumps off from a discussion of two overlapping place-based projects which the authors and additional collaborators are currently working to develop in the Seattle, WA metropolitan region. One project, called unARchived, entails an open-source augmented reality iOS app and accompanying website, which are themselves sub-elements of a larger umbrella-project called the People’s Geography of Seattle (PGS). The PGS started in 2017 as a university-public collaboration among community-based public historians, artists, storytellers, activists, and faculty at the University of Washington. Both projects draw on frameworks of participatory action research, counter-mapping, and community archiving and story-telling. Rooted in such approaches, both projects aim to curate historical and contemporary images, oral histories, interviews, maps, tours, and other artifacts in a manner which might amplify existing community capacities while at the same time countering dominant, naturalizing understandings of the rapid tech-capital led development and displacement ongoing in the city and the region. Crucially, we approach such activities as methodological starting points rather than outcomes. In that context this paper aims to extend ongoing conversations about how digital cartographic and visual humanities platforms—unARchived being a first iteration of one such platform—might accommodate overarching visions based on the approaches outlined above while also engendering additional engagements including further place-based collaborations, organizing efforts, and anti-displacement actions themselves.