Mapping the relational construction of people and places

Michael Donnelly, Sol Gamsu, Samuel Whewall

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A new method is proposed here aimed at eliciting the mechanisms which maintain the relational positioning of people and places within social space. This ‘mapping tool’ is inherently relational by design and involves participants creating visual representations of their geographic imaginaries, encompassing their perceptions and preferences of different localities. This is followed by an interviewing approach wherein participants ‘speak to’ their map, producing ‘thick’ narratives detailing the ties that bind people and places. The method was developed and used as part of a 3-year study into the geographic imaginaries of young people in the UK, involving the collection of 1,000 maps, together with over 200 interviews, across 20 diverse localities. We draw on empirical examples of using the method from this study, including processes of differentiation within the middle classes and the place-based identities of towns, cities and localities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-108
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Relationality
  • mapping
  • qualitative geographic information science (GIS)
  • social space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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