Category: Session 1: Development and Displacement

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.

Gourmet Gentrification: Mapping Elite Tastes Along New York’s Consumption Frontier, 1990-2015

Will Payne

University of California, Berkeley

Theorists of gentrification and other urban scholars have long considered the spread of upscale amenities like restaurants, cafes, and bars to be important visual indicators of gentrification in the built environment. Scholars from urban geographer Neil Smith to sociologists Sharon Zukin, Sylvie Tissot, and Richard Ocejo have demonstrated how new high-end consumption spaces can themselves become spurs to further change in an area, in an unfolding dialectic of rising cultural and real estate capital, forcing out low-income residents. In this paper, I extend this tradition to consider the role of evolving informational networks about urban consumption, from paper guidebooks like the Zagat Survey to mobile location-based service (LBS) and web mapping applications like Yelp, Foursquare, and Google Local, and their interaction with broader trends in urban inequality and sociospatial segmentation. In my research, I argue that changes in the production and distribution of spatial data about urban amenities help to accelerate gentrification and residential displacement, as the use value of local businesses like gourmet restaurants and bars is quickly inscribed into digital databases and realized as exchange value in real estate and tourist markets. This paper looks at the period from 1990-2015, using data from New York’s pioneer “user-generated” restaurant guide the Zagat Survey to trace the contours of “gourmet gentrification” over time, with special attention to the accelerating rate of change in Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Mapping stories: Using GPS as an ethnographic approach to socio-spatial research with families displaced by war

Bree Akesson
Wilfrid Laurier University

There is an unprecedented number of displaced persons in the world today. This number is still rising as solutions to stem armed conflict and its subsequent displacement continue to fail. With the sudden arrival of large numbers of refugees in resource poor settings, sites for refugees have developed rapidly without attention to the social and spatial implications. Research methods with populations affected by war do not always include sensitive methods by which to better learn about their everyday mobilities. Furthermore, there is scarce research that uses geographic positioning systems (GPS) as an ethnographic approach with families displaced by war. Using a variety of data gathering methods including collaborative family interviews, drawing/mapmaking, GPS-tracked neighborhood walks, daily diaries, and GPS-tracking of everyday mobility, this presentation reports on a mixed methods research study exploring the everyday lives of Syrian families living in Lebanon. The presentation will describe how this particular combination of methods with GPS encourages individual and family voices and results in rich data on families’ socio-spatial experiences. Strengths of GPS as an ethnographic approach includes the ability to triangulate different forms of data from a variety of sources and avoiding preconceived questions in favor of learning about local categories and understandings of experience. However like other ethnographic methods, GPS also poses ethical challenges related to access, confidentiality, surveillance, and dissemination of research findings. In addition to exploring the strengths and challenges, this presentation will underscore the value of GPS as an ethnographic approach that has the capacity to shed light on the everyday realities of war-affected families and therefore contribute to solutions to ameliorate the negative consequences of war.