Abstract: Citizen-Generated Mapping of Urban Space Usage and Impacts on Urban Resilience

Hi everybody!!

My name is Emmaleah Jones and welcome to my W&M Charles Center summer 2016 research project blog!  Before diving into the details of the blog, here’s a little about my interests and background. I am from Warrenton, Virginia– just an hour (and change) southwest of Washington. I love to read, hike, sing, write, cook and eat! I am a person that one might describe as “enthusiastic”– the world fascinates me, and I came to college with the goal of learning everything I could.

Something that has always been incredibly important to me is the concept of “home.” I believe that the right to a safe and healthy home should be categorized as a primary human right. In that, my research topic has become very personal to me; I have become increasingly aware of how the tiny victory of ‘home’ has been rejected to people everywhere. The world will be the home of a projected 11 billion people by 2050– the cities where people make their homes will go on to define the world as we know it. I consider this issue to be the most important and complex issue facing our species in the coming decades.

Yet, as a student who will very soon be within the throngs of a massively tangled world, I have noticed that complicated problems do not respect academic disciplinary boundaries. In choosing my classes and discovering majors, I found that this fact seemed to have been largely overlooked. If going to a university is meant to prepare me to tackle the problems of the free world, why is it so important for me insulate my so-called enlightenment to one tiny crease of reality? I have always wanted to study people, but prior to college my exposure to the social sciences had been so oversimplified that I, like many, believed that studying just one thing was possible. Yet, it is increasingly clear, both to me and to the greater academic community, that any type of research involving people— how we grow and interact or how society develops and sustains itself—is convoluted and absolutely pushes past the neat lines that academia has drawn.

It is this argument that inspired me to design my own major—incorporating aspects of a number of disciplines—officially titled “Applied Biocultural Anthropology & Public Health.”

It is through this malleable lens that I plan to pursue my interests in human environment and urban development. While the intricacies of their issues grow wider, I plan to respond to their difficulties with an evolving model for interweaving approaches, employing diverse resources from a variety of fields and in various settings. I am employing the same logic in this project as an extension of this ideal, by incorporating Geographic Information Sciences and International Development. My ultimate plan is to be able to use anthropology as a key tool in problem solving, and to better inform intuitive, human-centered design of places, spaces, and relationships. I plan to pursue a Master’s in Urban Planning combined with Sustainable Development.

Now, some more about my project:

The project title is Citizen-Generated Mapping of Urban Space Usage and its Impacts on Urban Resilience–which I realize is a mouthful, so allow me to explain.

Humanity is without a doubt experiencing the most frenzied and concentrated phase of urbanization in our history. A few very important facts:

  • More than 50% of the world lives in cities.
  • Three billion people will live in informal settlements by 2050. (UN Habitat)
  • By 2030, urban land is expected to triple in size. (National Academy of Sciences)

The way in which the majority of the world’s cities grow and run is, put simply, unsustainable. Most cities of the future will develop outside of formal, institutional governance, i.e. without prior planning. Thus, many of the residents of the cities of the future will lack access to adequate infrastructure, security, and services. In this project, I posit that all urban space exists on a spectrum of formal to informal urban space that consists of numerous variables—with differing levels of importance— including but not limited to: presence or absence of prior city planning, access to secure, formal tenure, access to formal services, and distance from official government buildings, schools, and hospitals.

I hypothesize that if community-based participatory mapping is implemented in the city of Semarang—and in informal neighborhoods especially—our co-created knowledge and emic understanding of these areas will expand to inform community-based strategies in improving urban resilience. Working with 100 Resilient Cities, an organization developed by the Rockefeller Foundation, I will analyze six neighborhoods in Semarang, Indonesia as critical cases to understand the impact that community-based participatory research—particularly citizen-generated mapping—can have on urban resilience.

My general research questions and variables are separated into two phases, but are sequentially related. To begin with, the first phase of research questions asks: how are spaces developed and used in a city? Which variables characterize a neighborhood’s position on the spectrum of formal and informal urban space use? How can the informal spaces that exist be determined, understood, and improved?

The second phase of research questions asks: does community-based participatory research (CBPR) and community-based participatory mapping (CBPM) impact change in urban spaces? What is the relationship between the dimensions of urban resilience and urban space usage? Does the potential impact of CPBR differ based on type of urban space? How can CBPM be incorporated into operative strategies and improvements in city neighborhoods?

My research design is explanatory sequential, quasi-experimental, and takes a case approach. This design means that the study is two-tiered in terms of timing, beginning with a quantitative spatial analysis to map variations and identify variable relationships between neighborhoods and their space usage. This first phase of the project will then support the secondary phase of the design by identifying key variables that contribute to the community’s location on the space usage spectrum (from informal to formal) and then quantitatively analyzing the patterns of space usage. The primary analysis will be tested for validity and reliability, adjusting to the analysis with every new variable determined or methodological failure outlined by key informants. Once the analysis has been finalized, I will isolate six communities that demonstrate distinct positions on this space usage spectrum—2 informal outliers, 2 formal outliers, and two as close to the average as I can find. In the project’s quasi-experimental approach, I will separate these naturally occurring groups using this scale and, after controlling for covariates, will then approach the second phase of the project.

This phase encompasses the theoretical and strategic case studies to amplify, elaborate, and specify the impacts of and relationships formed both through the process of community-based participatory mapping and the strategies gained from this process, as well as how it contributes to efforts to improve urban resilience. I will understand the concept of resilience in this project as defined by the City Resilience Framework (CRF)— a unique framework developed by Arup with support from the Rockefeller Foundation to help cities and city leaders to assess the extent of their resilience, to better identify the assets and weaknesses of critical areas, and to plan actions, programs, and partnerships tailored to their city’s communities.

I leave for Semarang on the 16th of May, so I’ve been looking at flights and eagerly awaiting meeting the 100 RC Team!!! I am beyond excited for this opportunity, I know that it will be one of the most valuable experiences of my college career!! Thanks for reading, and hopefully my next post will be shorter and more exciting than this one!!!