Defining the Terms

Cultural Mapping aims to find the intersection between cultureeconomy, and place. Each of these terms come with their own implications, contestations, and hegemonic understandings. This page will attempt to unpack the definition of these terms and explicate how the Kings County Cultural Mapping project positions itself within their multiple connotations.

What is the project’s definition of culture?

Patrick Geddes, a founder of urban planning in the 20th century, argues that we need to move away from both “mentalist” and “aesthetic” conceptions of culture, and have a much more robust, “hands-on” relationship to the production, rather than simply the consumption of culture. The Kings County Cultural Mapping project attempts to look at culture as an act of a group of citizens, rather than just as art.

The term culture signifies a complex notion, the meanings of which are shifting and evolving.  While the Kings County Cultural Mapping project strives to use a definition of culture which is emergent, the project’s understanding of culture is framed by Raymond Williams’ (1978) Keywords, in which he outlines three broad categories of the usage of the word culture: “a general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development”, “a particular way of life”, and “the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity” [1]. The project principally draws from the third meaning, while attempting to embody the first and second meaning through digital storytelling.

It is important to be realistic and clear about the scope and domain boundaries of cultural mapping.  Parameters that indicate what gets put on the map and what doesn’t will be determined through a consensual process amoung mapping participants and stakeholders. An examination of cultural mapping models across Canada and overseas will help the Advisory Committee to explore these parameters.

What is the project’s definition of economy?

Much of the language used to describe the benefits of cultural mapping is derived from an economic framing of the practice. It is generally known, and accepted, that economic development is what fuels municipal planning strategies and initiatives. While this blog does its best to include the ways in which cultural mapping brings to light the social benefits of culture, it is also important to examine the lens in which ‘economy’ is viewed. The project attempts to distance itself from the myopic view of a capitalist framing of the economy, and adopt a hyperopic view of economics that acknowledges diverse economies.

The economy is generally thought of in terms of wage labour, capitalist enterprises and the production of goods and services for the market, which is viewed in isolation, separate from other social processes. “A representation of the economy as essentially capitalist is dependent on the exclusion of many types of economic activities that transact, remunerate, appropriate and distribute and that do so according to multiple registers of value” [2]. Cultural exchange, production, practices, and activities can often be categorized in the “excluded others” of contemporary economic framing. For instance, how does our current economic discourse acknowledge the following alternative, non-market, non-capitalist examples?

  • A local visual artist making an in-kind donation of their work to a fundraiser;
  • A local musician playing for a community event free of charge;
  • A local resident providing free accommodation for a touring performer;
  • Unpaid board members of an arts council giving free consultation to emerging artists;
  • A volunteer lending countless hours to renovating a heritage site;
  • A farmer at the farmer’s market exchanging vegetables for a necklace made by the artisan in the booth next to them;
  • An elder visiting a local school to describe their experience growing up in a residential school;
  • A church organizing a musical event to collect food and clothing donations for a family in need.

It is through valuing these cultural relations that make up our community that we will be capable of truly understanding the interdependent impact that culture has on the economy.

The image of an iceberg created by Ken Byrne for the Community Economies Collective is a powerful visual representation of all of the diverse economic activities that go unacknowledged by our capital-driven planning processes.

The Kings County Cultural Mapping project, when speaking of economic development, acknowledges these multifarious ways in which we are engaged in producing, transacting, and distributing values that are hidden below the surface.

For further reading:
Building Community Economies in Marginalised Areas by Katherine Gibson and Jenny Cameron
Community Economies
ABCD Meets DEF: Using Asset Based Community Development to Build Economic Diversity by Katherine Gibson and Jenny Cameron
Business as Usual or Economic Innovation?: Work, Markets and Growth in Community and Social Enterprises by Jenny Cameron
Genuine Progress Index for Atlantic Canada

Creative Economy / Creative Class / Creative Placemaking – where do all these terms fit in?

Creative economy is an umbrella term that defines the “big picture” of all the industries, occupations, organizations, businesses, and individuals involved in the generation or exploitation of knowledge and information. It insists that the economy be defined based on the work people do rather than the industry for which they work. For instance, someone may own a creative, value-added farming enterprise that transcends traditional agricultural activities.

Developing cultural infrastructure such as the creation of a cultural map supports the region in increasing its attractiveness to the creative class – the individuals that make up the creative economy. The creative class is composed of scientists, engineers, educators, architects, as well as people in design, education, arts, music and entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology and/or creative content [3].

The creative class is known for its departure from traditional workplace confines. Amoung many flexibilities that a job in the creative economy affords, the growing ability to choose where to work is something that is on the minds of municipalities across the globe. There is increased competitiveness amoung municipalities to attract highly mobile members of the burgeoning creative class, and this has led municipalities to start rethinking how they support cultural sectors and other industries that fall within the creative economy.

Rural areas, such as Kings County, are particularly challenged as traditional dependencies on agriculture, outmigration of youth towards culturally vibrant urban centres, and a relatively small number of industries leave many areas vulnerable. Appealing to the creative class gives rural areas the opportunity to revive their downtown cores, attract a young, talented, tech-savy and creative segment of people to the area, and enhance branding strategies for cultural and heritage tourism.

Place is something, unlike natural resources, that can be improved and developed through the collective creative capacity of a community. Cultural resources, amenities and facilities are coming to be seen as strategic, and they play an important role in the new economy.”People tend to want to live in distinctive places with unique and diverse characteristics and identities. They are drawn to communities with rich histories, unique heritage buildings and built form, the proximity of landscapes and natural assets, amoung others” [4].

Although creative placemaking is not necessarily a term used in our everyday lexicon, members of the creative class in Kings County engage in creative placemaking every day by shaping the physical and social character of the region around arts and cultural activities. “Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired” [5].

For further reading:
Beyond the creative industries: Mapping the creative economy in the United Kingdom by Peter Higgs, Stuart Cunningham and Hasan Bakhshi
Definitions and models of the creative economy by the Canadian Conference of the Arts
Creative Placemaking by Anne Markusen and Anne Gadwa
The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida


[1] Williams, Raymond. (1976). Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society. New York: Oxford University Press.

[2] Community Economies Collective. (2009). Community Economies. Community Economies Project.

[3] Florida, Richard. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class: and how it’s transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. New York: Perseus Book Group.

[4] Baeker, Greg. (2010). Rediscovering the Wealth of Place: A municipal cultural planning handbook for Canadian communities. Ontario: Municipal World Inc. Page 41.

[5] Markusen, Anne & Anne Gadwa. (2010). Creative Placemaking. For the Mayors’ Institute on City Design.

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