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Where’s the rest of Scarborough?

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As proof copies of the map are heading out the door for use in workshops and as visitors to the studio take a look and comment, the main question is as to why it focusses on the town centre when Scarborough is so much more than that.

If you’ve been following progress on this blog, the reason is probably apparent. But if you’re dipping in in advance of the launch event, here’s a quick explanation which will also provide a neat overview of the theory behind the map.

The aim is to steer people to Scarborough’s cultural, historical and arts-related places, and by association, events. By doing so it is hoped that residents and visitors alike will build a picture of Scarborough as a culturally vibrant town and their movements around it will be shaped as a result.

In order to make this happen we felt this had to be a very usable/useful map, not something that would only appeal to people already looking for an arts experience. This led us to cognitive mapping – a theory that you can/should draw maps aligned to how the human brain works when working out journeys. A key part of cognitive mapping is the brain’s use of landmarks to navigate by. So, we thought, what if we loaded our map with cultural landmarks, thereby encouraging people to navigate by, and thus notice these places?

To enable us to draw a map which would function in this way meant working at a particular scale, and practicality issues meant A2 was going to be the limiting paper size in providing a physically useful map. The end result of taking this approach would be that we would only be able to concentrate on the town centre.

So the decision was made to focus on this locale and have an inset of the wider Scarborough area.

It’s a compromise and it does admittedly provide some problems, particularly in creating trails to accompany the map, many of which which will not be limited to the town centre.
The alternative however would have been to show a wider area but lessen the effectiveness of the cognitive mapping theory. There are a couple of existing maps of Scarborough which could have been quickly adapted to highlight cultural venues but would this has affected the way people move around the town? Our research suggests not.

There are some benefits to our decision beyond the cognitive mapping theory – it has allowed us add a level of detail that’s totally unique to this map and as such is the first map of the town truly designed for pedestrians rather than cars. It has also resulted in (or so people are telling us) a visually striking and somewhat unique map that attracts attention just because of how it looks.

We see this printed map as just the start. It is experimental, a pilot almost, but it opens up a whole new approach to mapping Scarborough. There’s scope to continue to map areas of the town in this detail if desired, particularly as hand-held digital media become more widespread. Or until we can print bigger maps that don’t blow away in the wind.

View from the back

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At the risk of this looking like a shameless advert, I wanted to mention an exhibition we have opening on Friday in our tiny galley in Scarborough. Inspired by a 6-month surf trip along the coasts of France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco, the exhibition by Kathryn Welford includes paintings and a map/montage of sketches and ephemera that snakes around the gallery walls. Interpretation of place is one of the key themes of CHART Scarborough and this exhibition seemed to resonate with the project. Advert over, read and see more here.

A bit of philosophy

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As promised, a teeny bit of philosophy. A caveat first though – I know nothing about philosophy. But this project has prompted some fascinating background reading to help inspire and define what we were trying to achieve and one route I found us heading off on kept bringing up the same names – Debord, Benjamin, Lefebvre. So light up a Gitanes and prepare for the map as political act (that’s a smidgen of Walter Benjamin right there for you).

The theory of ‘the production of space’ (Henri Lefebvre) suggests that as we shape the world around us, in return we are shaped by that world – we become what we experience. Therefore a map that communicates a strong sense of place says ‘this is who we are’. We’re not just saying ‘this is Scarborough’, but ‘this is what creates a Scarborian’. With my town branding head on I’m thinking there are also positive image implications of producing this map, with my creative coast head on I’m thinking about making clear the impact of cultural activity on economic regeneration (over to Richard Florida on that one but Scarborough was, after all, declared the Most Enterprising Place in Europe as a result of activity in which culture played a pivotal role).

Clearly we’re heading into urban space territory here – if you want to change the mind, change the geographic conditions that shape it.

Further to this, if we accept that anything created has to be inserted into a living social content (Walter Benjamin), and that cultural production and production of space cannot be separated (Lefebvre again), then such a map is a political act as it will change the space it is mapping and thus change the lives of the people who move through that space (Guy Debord).

That’s all either pretentious crap blogged here to justify the project, or reveals some of the impulses that drive some of Scarborough’s cultural activity which are/will be illustrated on this map.

Ok, I’ll stick to design in the future. But the beauty of CHART Scarborough is that it has no end point – this first version of the map is intended to be a catalyst. And this research reading and the subsequent conversations with various people about the project has set me off on a real psychogeography tip that I hope to explore as one of many people engaging with CHART Scarborough post-publication of the map. Which, by the way, is pencilled in for mid July.

(The image at the top is a model of part of Scarborough that’s currently in the Renaissance Centre. I snapped it on my phone when we were running one of the project’s workshop’s there.)

From the horses mouth

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There are a few opportunities coming up to hear us talk about progress on CHART Scarborough.

The first is something of a last minute arrangement – due to the keynote speaker having to pull out of Digital Scarborough due to family illness I’ve been asked if I might fill in. So at 4.30pm today you’re welcome to turn up to Westwood School of Arts (yorkshire Coast College – next to Tescos) where I’ll talk about the theory of cognitive mapping that’s guiding the design of our maps and an overview of what we’ve done so far. Plus I’ll have the latest version of the map itself (still being worked on) with me. I’m expected to fill about an hour, so you can come a judge if I know enough to do that!

If you can’t make that, I’m also talking about cognitive mapping at the Digital Scarborough Barcamp tomorrow. (Details & booking on the Digital Scarborough website – link above.)

Dorcas will be presenting progress so far to the Town Team on Tuesday evening. I’m hoping I might get along towards the end of that too when I finish at another event.

All three will provide opportunity to ask questions.

More trail ideas

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Kate’s poetry trail idea would make a good pilot trail for the CHART Scarborough map. I’ve just had this thought emailed to me by Richard Flowitt. He says,

“A trail is a journey on a path and since it is in Scarborough it is an urban path or trail. Such a trail is through roads, buildings, gardens and open spaces.Therefore an important visual aspect of the trail must be the buildings and their relationships to the town, the communities and each other, open spaces and their importance.

This does not mean that the prestigious buildings such as The Grand Hotel must be dominant but that the extravagance of the carving and sculptures should be appreciated. Similarly the delicacy of the cast iron bracket next to the St Nicholas Cliff Lift should be enjoyed . This may not be the direction you are proposing to go but could form a small part of your trail.”

I also see the possibility for Scarborough’s architecture forming its own ‘trail’.

That’s the beauty of CHART Scarborough. It’s flexible enough for us to identify and highlight all the various cultural treats we have at our disposal via a range of trails developed by passionate people.

What we’re not doing

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Dorcas and I managed to catch up this week and pin down some of what we are and aren’t doing with CHART Scarborough. This was largely for our own benefit, setting a point from which to push on with the project, but I thought that I’d share some of those thoughts on here.

For example, we’re not looking to produce the definitive Scarborough street map – ours certainly won’t list every street name with a grid reference although we are aiming at something highly legible and usable. Neither are we trying to create the ultimate tourist guide to the town, although we do want to encourage visitors and locals to have a cultural experience of Scarborough. We’re not producing a piece of advertising, rather than repeating the usual blurb we want to try and get the true essence of Scarborough culture. And, despite our enthusiasm for legible cities thinking, it’s not actually not our aim to design a by-the-book legible cities map – we’re being upfront that we want to steer people and shape the mental map they use to navigate the town.

We wonder if what we’re working on here is pretty unique – a map that is informed by the very best of current town-centre legible map thinking, but also seeks to influence the journey’s that people take and ultimately their perception of place. It’s culture meets cognitive mapping – we’d love to hear if anyone has attempted anything like this before.

Legible links

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A couple of links for you. Although it isn’t these that are legible, it’s the subject matter. First is the local newspaper’s article about the proposed Station area redevelopment. It’s an interesting project for lots of reasons, but not least that the consultants have recommended ‘better visual and physical links with the town centre, cultural quarter and seafront’. Could this be the start of legible cities thinking for Scarborough? One of the projects that has informed the thinking behind CHART Scarbrough is Bristol’s Legible City project – this sort of approach could be quite easily achieved in somewhere the size of Scarborough.

CHART Scarborough will be well established long before anything happens with the station so it will be interesting to see if we can influence local thinking or at least demonstrate what might be possible with some legible linking around the town. I think that part of the challenge of this project is not just to ensure that the cultural places of Scarborough become better known and visited, but to cause people to think about how they navigate around the town and value those journeys.

Media Coverage for CHART Scarborough

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Here’s some of the media coverage so far. It will give you some background information on CHART Scarborough and how it evolved from Scarborough Arts Trail. Just click on the links below.

http://www.scarborougheveningnews.co.uk/news/Map-created-for-culture-hotspots.5518933.jp

http://www.scarborougheveningnews.co.uk/art/Arts-trail-in-the-pipeline.3288900.jp

We have hard copies of other printed articles that no longer appear on the Scarborough Evening News website. Get in touch with us if you’d like to see them.

Media Release 29.07.09: ‘CHART Scarborough’ is arts map’s new name!

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An exciting arts map for the town is to be named CHART Scarborough, it was announced today.

The initials stand for Culture, Heritage and Art in Scarborough which is what the map is going to celebrate.

CHART Scarborough is a new initiative for Scarborough, aiming to provide a physical and website-based map of the town’s current creative and cultural activities and cultural landmarks. The map will also provide a trail people can follow to take them around Scarborough’s cultural highlights and information about the places identified on the map. Read More »

Welcome to CHART Scarborough

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For everyone interested in promoting and supporting culture, heritage and art in Scarborough, welcome to CHART Scarborough. Welcome, also, to our blog.

CHART Scarborough is an arts project which aims to put Scarborough’s creative activities – past and present – literally ‘on the map’. CHART Scarborough stands for Culture, Heritage and Art in Scarborough. Scarborough is full of creative people who are very passionate about promoting Scarborough as cultural hotspot – and rightly so, as there is a lot going on here now in the creative industries, digital media and the arts, with a long tradition of producing and nurturing homegrown creative talent and supporting innovation. Our project, which has funding from Arts Council England, aims to chart Scarborough’s creativity on a printed map and through the development of a website which will enable local people to produce their own cultural trails. But that’s the tip of the iceberg…. Read More »