Making maps that matter?: the role of geospatial information in addressing rural landscape change Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Norwood, Carla Michele
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • Rural communities with bountiful natural amenities are attracting unprecedented in-migration. When unmanaged, the ensuing development threatens the ecological and cultural assets that are driving growth and valued by many residents. Despite the availability of geospatial analysis and visualization tools that seem well-suited to aiding community deliberations about land use planning and common pool resources, these tools have rarely been shown to effectively help communities understand and address threats to their landscape. Through a multi-year, mixed-method participatory research process with community partners in Macon County, North Carolina, I have studied the potential of geospatial information to enjoy increased local relevance, become more accessible to local discussions, and better engage local stakeholders. I co-developed an iterative research process that draws on critical GIS and participatory research traditions, using ethnographic interviews to guide geospatial analysis and mapping. I produced maps and landscape visualizations that successfully contributed to efforts to engage local residents in discussions about their changing community. I also studied how maps contribute to local planning efforts and their effect on attitudes towards planning. I found that maps designed to be relevant to local planning discussions can support more deliberative discussion and successful public engagement, aid in the recognition and articulation of shared community goals that challenge dominant pro-growth narratives, and enhance local capacity for planning and resource management. Further, the maps produced in community-driven processes both reflect and shape the shifting discursive strategies through which land use planning or conservation advocates navigate amenity migration landscapes. However, simply supplying visual information about growth and development trends in an experimental mail survey did not affect attitudes towards planning measures. This research addresses critical but often unasked questions about the relationship between research and on-the-ground outcomes. It should be of interest to landscape change researchers who want their findings to inform land use decision making, critical GIS scholars who are interested in applications, participatory researchers interested in GIS and iterative research designs, and local leaders who want to better engage residents in thinking about changing landscapes and growth management.
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  • In Copyright
  • Holt, Flora L.
  • Open access

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