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Communication Asset Mapping: A New Approach Builds Community Capacity Through Communication Focused Interactive Mapping

Communication Asset Mapping: Communication Hotspots and Comfort Zones

A strong Communication Infrastructure depends not only on the storytelling network, but also on the communication environment. The communication environment consists of any piece of the built or social environment that can either promote or discourage neighborhood communication. Communication Asset Mapping is a process where we look to identify those positive pieces of the neighborhood communication environment - from there, communication assets can be leveraged by practitioners and researchers as places to conduct outreach to local residents and gain a better understanding of what neighborhood spaces are important communication resources. 

This work is an attempt to move away from a deficit model of understanding a community, where the focus is only on neighborhood problems. We think it is just as valuable to recognize the assets that exist in a community as a way to improve neighborhood vitality.

 We define communication assets as physical components of the urban environment that residents consider positive spaces of social and community interaction. These communication assets can take the form of hotspots – where residents gather to talk – and comfort zones – community institutions and locations that residents feel most connected to. Hotspots and comfort zones are identified by residents in surveys, focus group discussions, and in participatory multimedia production (like the ones featured in the Collaborations section of this website), as well as by researchers through a systematic observational process (represented in Fig. 1).

The central idea is that communication assets can be used as capacity-building blocks – by local community organizations, outside entities, researchers, and residents themselves – as a way to build stronger communities and strengthen neighborhood storytelling networks.


 Fig 1. Metamorphosis Communication Asset Mapping Protocol Flowchart

As part of our research in South LA/ South Figueroa Corridor project, we surveyed 250 residents and conducted focus groups with a sample of those residents to find out what physical places they felt were hot spots and comfort zones. In addition to their places of residence, they also identified communication assets that consisted of retail establishments, religious associations, community associations, public services, schools, medical and dental clinics, public and common spaces, and culture, arts and recreation.

In order to get a place-specific sense of the actual communication assets that existed within the project area, Metamorphosis team members conducted communication asset mapping fieldwork in the summer of 2011. Team members did the following: 

  • Walked the project area and took account of the specific types of communication assets that were mentioned by residents in surveys and focus groups.
  • Identified the addresses of these communication assets and took pictures of the communication assets in the project area.
  • Took note of additional spaces that they determined might have the potential to be communication assets.

We recognize that the researchers' eyes will not grasp all of the communication assets in the community - that is why we would like this project to grow to be more collaborative and participatory with local residents, practitioners, policymakers and others. We plan to hold future participatory communication asset mapping workshops where these stakeholders will have a chance to contribute their perceptions of neighborhood communication assets. Through resident and community organization communication asset mapping, researchers and the community will be able to get a layered understanding of how a neighborhood and its communication assets can be viewed from multiple vantage points.

To manage the collection of the communication asset mapping, the South LA/ South Figueroa Corridor project area was divided in 27 manageable sub-areas and Metamorphosis research team members were given a portion of the sub-areas to walk and communication asset map. The 27 sub-areas are represented in Fig. 2.

Fig 2. South LA/ South Figueroa Corridor study area divided by 27 sub-areas for communication asset mapping

Through the communication asset mapping this summer, Metamorphosis research team members identified a total of 1161 communication assets represented by a preliminary breakdown in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Communication Asset preliminary breakdown during summer 2011 fieldwork by Metamorphosis research team members.

From the data collected during the fieldwork, Metamorphosis research team members will create a database of communication assets, map them out visually in an overview map and by sub-area, and also create a visual picture gallery of all the communication assets identified. All of this data will be posted onto the MetaConnects website and be publically accessible to the general public.

Return to Collaborations.

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